Indie Slasher Trilogy

Malevolence may not be an essential slasher but delivers suspenseful terror in spades. Filmmaker Stevan Mena’s debut feature was a no-nonsense thriller that hit during the DVD era’s absolute peak in 2005. Recalling an earlier era of gritty horror like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House On The Left, the indie slasher became a minor hit on DVD and has since spawned an entire horror trilogy.

Featuring a masked serial killer and many of the usual conventions common to the genre, Malevolence is grounded horror entertainment done with a rich atmosphere and well-crafted filmmaking for a low-budget movie. The indie film’s cast stars R. Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee, and Kevin McKelvy.

Patterned after Psycho’s film structure, writer/director/producer/composer Steven Mena crafts his film around a bank heist gone wrong…that ends up going from bad to worse for the felons when they come across a deranged madman hunting them. It’s always nice seeing the tables turned on criminal protagonists.

Kidnapped as a child, Martin Bristol is exposed to a serial killer’s ruthless murders. Bristol went missing for years and his whereabouts unknown… until now. Made in the mold of early Michael Myers, Bristol is the silent assassin stalking the night and leaving bloody bodies behind. Possibly intentional, Bristol is kept off screen as much as possible and doesn’t quite develop an iconic presence. It is Malevolence’s biggest failing.

..Director Stevan Mena’s Malevolence is fan-pleasing horror that delivers on its promised spine-tingling fear

Julian (R. Brandon Johnson) and Marylin (Heather Magee) are two desperate bank robbers on the run after one of their partners is badly injured in the heist. They head back to a safe house far out in the country. The plan is to meet up with Kurt and split the loot. That plan is wreaked when they discover Kurt has taken two hostages, a woman named Samantha (Samantha Dark) and her young daughter.

Laden with suspense and the right amount of tension, the bumbling criminals stumble upon a darkness that will soon ruin any of their plans.

Malevolence has ample character development and the indie cast works well in Mena’s straightforward narrative. It is a derivative genre exercise that succeeds based on an excellent sense of what makes a slasher work and realistic characters. The horror film doesn’t overly rely on gore or inane plot twists, a credit to Mena’s smart script.

Indie horror often fails to match the suspense and terror hyped in its marketing. Director Stevan Mena’s Malevolence is fan-pleasing horror that delivers on its promised spine-tingling fear.

Video

Marketing materials for Malevolence claim this BD is derived from a new HD transfer taken from the 35mm negative. Supervised by director Stevan Mena and cinematographer Tsuyoshi Kimoto, the low-budget slasher wears its many horror influences on its sleeve in this reasonable, if limited, 1.78:1 presentation. The presence of visible dust and white specks back up its claim the transfer has been taken from the negative. This is a flat, largely unprocessed telecine that accurately reflects the low-budget source.

Malevolence runs 85 minutes, encoded in low-bitrate AVC on a BD-25. It’s a fair encode with minimal banding but lacking detail. Shadow delineation is quite limited and clarity is hurt in the many darker scenes. The gritty cinematography isn’t concerned with razor-sharp close-ups, often drenched in a cold palette with pale flesh-tones and a darker contrast.

The slasher’s picture quality isn’t much to look at 1080P resolution, offering up only decent clarity and definition. This Blu-ray represents an honest reflection of the movie without introducing new issues.

Audio

Two lossy audio options deliver serviceable sound quality for Malevolence, providing some immersion and a palpable soundstage. The 5.1 Dolby Digital option at 448 kbps offers adequate separation, intelligible dialogue and a few tricks that should scare listeners. The low-budget production has a nice touch of acoustic atmosphere with excellent surround support. A fairly active mix successfully raises the tension and suspense when needed.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a yellow font. Secondary audio arrives as 2.0 Dolby Digital in stereo, clearly a lesser option than the surround choice.

Extras

The 2004 slasher hits Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Mena Films, presumably the vanity label distributor for filmmaker Stevan Mena. The movie originally hit DVD years ago from Anchor Bay and had been out of print for many years.

The Blu-ray and DVD combo set arrives with a slipcover that happens to match the slipcovers released for Malevolence’s two sequels. It looks like the only new extra is the Leatherface Speaks featurette. Everything from the Anchor Bay DVD is carried over.

Audio Commentary – Writer/director/producer/composer Stevan Mena, lead actor Brandon Johnson and associate producer Eddie Akmal to a lesser degree join in on this largely pointless group discussion. Lacking any candid insight, Mena and Johnson often react to on-screen events with minor production background notes. This is one commentary not worth hearing. Mena does explain why Samantha has a British accent.

Back to the Slaughterhouse (31:27 in SD) – A making-of documentary largely revolving around Mena’s thoughts on the movie and his background in film. More insight is shared here than in his lackluster audio commentary.

The Dark Side of Horror (12:12 in SD) – An interview with British actress Samantha Dark on her experience filming the slasher.

Leatherface Speaks (05:16 in upscaled HD) – The original actor for Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, speaks glowingly of Malevolence in this featurette.

Fundraiser Trailer (01:24 in SD)

Deleted Scenes (09:59 in SD) – Nine scenes cut from the movie. Some are mere extensions, while others are entirely unseen in the final cut.

Photo Gallery (05:23 in HD) – Behind the scenes and production photographs play on their own.

Rehearsal Footage (01:20 in SD) – Actors Brandon Johnson and Heather McGee rehearse a scene together.

TV & Radio Spots (04:40 in SD)

Brutal Massacre: A Comedy Trailer (02:01 in HD)

Malevolence Trailer (01:57 in HD)

Malevolence 2: Bereavement Trailer (01:42 in HD)

Malevolence 3: Killer (01:15 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Malevolence
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A well-made indie slasher from the 2000s that recalls the gritty filmmaking of earlier horror classics.

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