Malevolence (2004)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Rehearsal Footage, Still Gallery, Trailers, Screenplay

"Malevolence" is Stevan Mena’s debut in filmmaking. He wrote, produced and directed this independent horror film and even wrote the music for it. Anyone with that sort of determination and skill set is certainly earning my respect as such auteurs have often turned into some of the genre’s greatest filmmakers, like John Carpenter for example.

The similarities with Carpenter don’t stop there either. "Malevolence" is a definite nod at 80s stalker horror and while not directly copying or borrowing, the film is certainly inspired by movies like "Halloween" and most importantly "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Nonetheless for a first-time effort by a new talent, the film has a surprisingly own identity and signature that makes it different from the crop of straight copycats.

The film tells the story of three bank robbers on the run, hiding out in a remote farm house, where the original inhabitant begins stalking them. So much about the story, but trust me, things do get hairy and with a few twists sprinkled in, "Malevolence" is indeed a very enjoyable exploitation horror film.

Technically the film is well put together, although there are some rough edges – most likely a result of the super low budget and more importantly the fact that the movie was shot over the course of several years, which makes continuity a practical impossibility at times. Also the film’s pacing is a bit awkward and makes for a great first 40 minutes but then slows down surprisingly towards the end.

A film like this has to belong to Anchor Bay in order to make the most out of it and Stevan Mena should count his blessings for signing with the studio. The DVD that we have here is an amazing release, especially considering the movie’s origins and super-indie scope. Anchor Bay is presenting the movie here in a Divimax transfer in a 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The picture oftentimes belies the film’s budget, making it look wonderfully rich and detailed without specks, grain or flaws you would normally find in a transfer of such a small production. Colors are vibrant, blacks are deep, creating creepy and brooding shadows that are just ideal for a movie such as this. Of course no edge-enhancement or compression artifacts mar the picture either.

The audio comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track. It is a decent track but none that will blow you away, since the film was not originally produced with surround sound in mind and most, if not all, of the surround elements have been created in post production. Still it serves its purpose very well and makes for an engrossing presentation.

Since this is a Special Edition, Anchor Bay gave director Stevan Mena the microphone on this DVD and as a result you will find some very valuable bonus materials here that you would otherwise never find for such a small film. Starting out with a great <$commentary,commentary track>, Mena tells viewers virtually everything about the production. The idea, the conception, the production the shoot, the problems, the fun, the technique, the style, it’s all there. As a result we have here one of the greatest <$commentary,commentary track>s for all aspiring filmmakers who want to hear from one of their own how he succeeded in pulling it all together. Actor Brandon Johnson and associate producer Eddie Akmal support Mena on this <$commentary,commentary track>, also adding their take on the film for even more information.

Next up is a featurette called "Back To The Slaughterhouse" which also covers the production and challenges of the film, only this time in a more visual form with clips and additional footage. It is a great featurette that truly shows the tribulations and the determination that has driven this picture to get made.

Rehearsal footage and deleted scenes are also included on the disc for viewers to enjoy, further adding to the scope of the release. The DVD is rounded out by the film’s trailer and TV and radio spots. A photo Gallery is also included and if you spin the disc up on your DVD-ROM drive you will even find the original screenplay there.

"Malevolent" is not the king of the hill when it comes to slasher films, but it is a film that works and that does not blatantly copy every genre stereotype that has been created. It has a signature of its own and has some interesting twists and moments. For the debut of a young filmmaker this is a thoroughly respectable movie and I am eager to se what else Stevan Mena has up his sleeve in the future. Bring it on!