MALEVOLENCE Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment Film Year: 2004 Rating: R Film Length: 98 minutes Genre: Horror/Thriller Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.85:1, widescreen enhanced Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround[*] English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Subtitles: None Closed Captioned: Yes SLP: US $19.98 Release Date: April 19, 2005. Film Rating: / Entertainment Rating: / Starring: Samantha Dark (Samantha Harrison), R. Brandon Johnson (Julian), Heather Magee (Marilyn), Richard Glover (Kurt), Courtney Bertolone (Courtney Harrison), Keith Chambers (Max) Written by: Stevan Mena Directed by: Stevan Mena I admit it: I love thriller and horror films. That is why I couldn’t wait to receive Malevolence from Anchor Bay Entertainment. If you’ve visited the company’s newly revamped website recently you may have noticed plenty of advertising of this movie. This movie has limited theatrical showings in a few cities and you still might be able to catch a glimpse of it. Just what is all of the hype about?? Is this fairly unknown film worth the watch? In sum – absolutely. The Story Yes, this movie has a story – and an interesting one too. Yet it’s simple enough that it doesn’t get the viewer all chained up in it. The story begins on May 14, 1989 with the abduction of a 6-year-old boy named Martin Bristol. Tied up in a bag, he is forced to witness the gruelling murders of his captor; a madman who abducts both children and adults and subjects them to horrible acts of violence. We don’t see much of it, but we know it’s going on. Like the other thousands of missing children that go unfound each year, no one is ever to hear from Martin Bristol again. Now fast forward to 1999 and we meet the characters of Julian and Marilyn. They are about to participate in a bank robbery with two others in hopes of straightening out their lives. After the robbery, the plan is to meet at an abandoned house to separate the money and go their separate ways. But Julian wants to follow his gut instinct not to get involved, but he does anyway. Sometimes it’s difficult to break old habits. Of course, the robbery does go wrong. When the group splits up on their getaway, one of the thieves kidnaps a young girl named Courtney and her mother Samantha for their van. They arrive at the remote house first. What they are unaware of is another predator that lives in the vicinity. When the others arrive to the house at dawn, they too find out they are not alone; there is a criminal roaming who is far worse than themselves. They can’t call the police because they’d get caught of their own crime, and when they decided to deal with silent stalker on their own, they’re offering to pay their debts off a lot faster. Scare Factor? Thankfully, Malevolence has quite a few moments that build and hold suspense to make the audience jump. While those of us who are more desensitized to these kinds of movies may jump less or even find it less eerie, casual viewers of the horror genre will get a good dose of the creeps. I made sure to watch this film with several people to evaluate their reactions and it all tipped towards positive (plus I get a kick out of watching people get scared). I’ll admit, even I jumped a few times – and it’s hard not to sometimes! What I Thought About It… As this director’s first film, Malevolence has some very captivating camera shots. They don’t make the movie but they help the movie convey the information much better. I was impressed with some of these visuals as they either heighten the suspense or are effective for a particular scene. A perfect example is the opening sequence right to the end of the opening credits. You know you are in for a gloomy film and I just couldn’t wait. Thankfully the movie was made on a low budget, too – so you won’t find any CGI, you won’t find big sets. This movie plays very simple and it works very well. On the flipside, the actors’ acting is hit-and-miss throughout. Sometimes it was good, other times it sounded too rehearsed, with the latter being more frequent but easy to ignore. Occasionally, I couldn't tell if the actors were serious about what they were saying. Also, the falling action after the climax slowed the movie down just a little bit. I think one scene in particular (logbooks) could use a little trimming just to speed it up. My biggest applause for this film is lack of humour in it. That makes me EXTREMEMLY happy. In my opinion, jokes, humour – whatever, does not belong in horror films. Humour better not be an ingredient in the director’s next two films. I don’t believe in comic relief for horror films and that is all too present in Hollywood horror films today (look what happened to Army of Darkness!). I watch horror to be scared not to laugh, although, in some horror movies you just can’t help not to laugh… Beg, Borrow, and Steal? It’s easy to compare movies to each other or see things on screen and say “Hey! I’ve seen that in [enter movie here]!” Malevolence is not exempted from taking ideas from other movies. It’s quite obvious that the film Halloween was a huge influence on this movie from sequencing to music, although I’d be careful about calling it a rip-off of that movie because they still are very different. I also saw elements from Seven, Night of the Living Dead, and even one part reminded me of The Terminator. Maybe I stretched it there a little, but I could be right…? As an FYI, in 2003, Malevolence became the first horror film to win Best Picture at the Long Island, NY International Film Festival. It also won Best Picture at the 2003 New York City Horror Film Festival. VIDEO QUALITY / The theatrical aspect ratio of this film is 1.85:1 and the DVD is presented this way. It is enhanced for widescreen televisions but offers a soft look because of the lower grade of film used here. Despite being a DiviMax Hi-Def transfer, the image has undefined details in the background and definition is average in close up images. The compression is visible and the softness associated with it is more than likely related to the film as well as the promotional screener I was using. In fairness to Anchor Bay, I am not using a “final product” during my evaluation here. It’s a promotional screener I’m using from the company for promotional use. There is minor edge haloing present as well, but again, it could be due to the copy I have. I’d really like to have a “final product” of this film for myself. On the positive side, this horror film has some great deep and dark black levels just like any horror film should. It’ll make you as lost in the night as the characters on screen. Most of the time shadow detail is pretty good, and other times the image gets swallowed up in the blackness. There are also a few scenes where black level is higher than normal giving it a washed out appearance. But none of this ever takes away from the suspense of the film which is top-notch all of the way! Flesh tones and colours all seem to be well balanced, albeit a slightly muted look is associated with the film used. Film grain is never distracting. Overall, I think the picture could look a more defined than what it is. I hope it improves somewhat with the final product on the store shelf. AUDIO QUALITY / The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that was used for the theatrical presentation. I believe this is a re-purposing effort for this film’s theatrical and DVD release. The film collapses to mono in several scenes with dialogue and effects. Most of the time, all of the environments are offered using all five channels for a surround presentation. This gives a nice impression of space, and a few times there are these sickly organic sounds that add to the twisted nature of the tale being told. The soundstage is front channel heavy most of the time, but that doesn’t stop it from using ambience to create surround from the front channels alone. Dialogue is clear most of the time but sometimes it sounds too quiet. There is also a very quiet ticking noise coming from the center channel that I thought was the sound of the cameras rolling during the dialogue scenes. The music is always in full stereo. It is nice and wide, and mildly used in the surrounds. If you are sitting between your speakers in the correct position you will hear this music soundtrack fill up all corners of your room. The music soundtrack (also created by the director) is simple, yet very haunting. There are not songs and lyrics, just electronic notes held out for a long time using a keyboard...but the depressing sound of it fits so well I felt like killing myself before the movie really started. The music is also a necessity to hold your suspense through the creepy scenes and it’s very effective. Some music sounds very much like Halloween and in this film it can be loud to make you jump or steady to hold your suspense. Bass from the soundtrack can be very powerful. I found it just a bit too much sometimes. The main channel subs as well as my LFE were booming a lot louder than many movies I've listened to. There is bass way down to about 20Hz in all channels. If it was up to me, the next time this DVD is released (for HD) I’d take the bass SPL down just a bit. But it didn’t bother me too much while listening to this dooming music. You know there is going to be trouble. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ahhhh! I love it! SPECIAL FEATURES / I can’t give an accurate rating on special features here because my screener had nothing else but the movie on it. No menus, no commentary, no nothing – but the movie. So I will list for you what is included on the final product according to the Anchor Bay website. Expect as features on the DVD: [*] audio commentary with Stevan Mena, Brandon Johnson and Associate Producer Eddie Akmal[*] deleted scenes[*] DVD-ROM: Original Screenplay[*] Featurette: Back To The Slaughterhouse – The creators of MALEVOLENCE tell the story behind the challenge of bringing their “horrifying” vision to life featuring Writer/Producer/Director Stevan Mena, Star Brandon Johnson and more…[*] Rehearsal Footage[*] Original Trailers and TV/Radio Spots For more information visit Anchor Bay at www.anchorbayentertainment.com or www.malevolencemovie.com. IN THE END… Malevolence has all of the right ingredients to become an instant cult favourite. It’s creepy, it’s got twisted visuals, and it’s got a fair share of jumps and a killer-but-simple music soundtrack. Most importantly: its low-budget enough to keep it a good horror film. Once these directors get the big budgets of Hollywood, good horror films never get made. To director Stevan Mena: the pressure is on you now! I look forward to your future projects! Michael Osadciw April 10, 2005.