"Malevolence" is just that.
The modestly filled Bloor Cinema was populated with horror fans eagerly awaiting the premiere of an exciting new addition to the revered catalogue of DVDs released by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Anchor Bay is well known for its special edition releases of horror classics such as Evil Dead, The Children of the Corn, Hallowe'en, Dawn of the Dead and more but this is their first theatrical release of a new movie. It's a risky move and suggests a great deal of faith in the product. Given their track record for recognizing genius we were all confidently expecting Malevolence to live up to the advertising copy.
But this was not an "instant horror classic". It was not scary. It wasn't clever, shocking, funny or gory. There wasn't even any nudity. We were not impressed.
The audience was comprised mostly of single young men, and a smattering of girlfriends, and we were hungry for blood. The crowd was rowdy during the introduction by Face from sponsor Edge102, and we grew restless during the tedious "scream queen" competition featuring female volunteers from the audience.
Writer/director/producer/composer Stevan Mena was present and gave a brief introduction. He thanked Anchor Bay, and the sponsors and told us, the viewing public, not to believe the hype but to let the film speak for itself. The lights dimmed, the curtain went up, and the film rolled.
We wanted blood and guts, chuckles and tits, but as the film unwound it became more and more apparent that none of these would be delivered. As is the case with young children, when horrors fans aren't fed to satisfaction they become cranky. Cranky and irritable. Irritable and sarcastic. Every shocking moment in the film was punctuated by a startling chord of synthesizer. Every closeup of eerie imagry was accompanied by tin-cymbal crashes. Every time the killer seemed to be dead he got up again. And every time something like this happened we laughed.
In the prologue we are told that nearly 300,000 children go missing in the United States every year. Most of them are recovered, reads the simple text, but many just vanish without a trace. We are then told that Martin Bristol was kidnapped one day in 1999. Eventually we are introduced to the basement of an unassuming farm house wherein a pretty, young girl dangles from rusty chains bound around her wrists. A heavy-set man cloaked in shadow enters the room carrying a dark sack, which he sets down on a work bench. Inside, silenced by duct tape, a young boy crouches. The boy watches calmly as the large man picks up a machete, approaches the girl and slashes her to ribbons.
Martin grows up over the next ten years, but we aren't privy to any of the horrors he's exposed to. In fact, the story that plays out before us has almost nothing to do with the poor kidnapped child from that opening scene.
A bank robbery takes place. The robbers flee. One of them dies in transit. Another kidnaps a woman and her young daughter on the way to the rendezvous. The daughter escapes from the abandonned house and hides in the farm house from the opening scene. A large man - who could it be? - murders the bankrobber and dons the crook's ghostly white mask. Serial killer in a mask you say? Go on.
When the remaining two crooks reach the rendezvous they find the woman tied up and begin stressing about the absense of their accomplice. The killer shows up, somehow sensing that there might be victims way over on the other side of the wheatfield. He stalks them a bit, takes his time and eventually kills the girl. Then stalks the last of the crooks as he helps the woman find her daughter. Chase scene eh? And...
It goes on and on like that for a while. In the typical masked slasher style our murderer walks slowly and seems to have superhuman strength and resistance to death. Coupled with the director's own derivitive musical score, which is riddled with references to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hallowe'en, we find ourselves in the audience of a film which does nothing out of the ordinary, nothing interesting or intriguing and nothing even remotely entertaining.
In fact so much of this film was cribbed from the established classics of the genre that it's only excuse could be satire, and satire it is not.
Malevolence is boring, unscary, derivitive, bland and conservative. Don't just leave this movie on the video store shelf, hide it behind their copy of Mermaids. This is Stevan Mena's first feature film, and he must not be allowed to make another. The acting was good, in fact it was too good, for if they had been terrible we could have laughed more often. The cinematography, by Tsuyoshi Kimoto was in fact fantastic. For a low budget horror film it looked clean and clear with nicely lit night scenes, but it was all for naught. I left the cinema feeling utterly empty. My friend and I didn't even bother to talk about it until we ran out of more interesting things to say.
Anchor Bay should be embarrassed.
But at least it's not Canadian.