Wednesday, 28 May 2014



I always start watching a film with the most optimistic of intentions. Delving into a film I know nothing about is exciting and trying to judge a film by it's title alone is usually a futile task (although some may be fairly self-explanatory; Slaughtered Vomit Dolls for example). Free from any hype or expectation is a great way to start to watch a film, it's even how I discovered my personal favorite - Antichrist.
So when Malevolence started I was feeling really positive. An opening text dump gives us a few missing person statistics and the case of Martin Bristol, a six year old boy who was taken from his front garden. Things then open on a fairly typical basement torture scene (if there is such a thing) where a woman is bound to the ceiling in chains by her wrists. An unidentified man drags in a large bag and opens it to reveal a young boy, assumedly the earlier mentioned Martin Bristol and leaves him to witness the gruesome proceedings.
From here we are cut to 1999, ten years after Martin Weston-Super-Mare’s disappearance. There is a meeting in a graveyard between two people organising a bank robbery. In the process of pulling off the robbery a mother and young daughter get kidnaped and taken to a deserted house designated as the gangs hideout. Quite predictably things don’t go as planned and during the usual struggles and chases the group discover the basement from the opening scene. In doing this they have disturbed the home of a mysterious man who kills all who come near, and then proceeds to go out of his way to hunt down everyone else he can find.
I don’t think I have ever had such an instantaneous shift of opinion on a film before. During the opening scene I was impressed that I was watching a something from the eighties that felt creepily modern. It was simple but well done and the cheap synth music which followed was enjoyably trashy. I was even more impressed when the graveyard scene was set in 1999. I’ve seen films try to be retro or grindhouse, but I’ve never actually believed I was watching something old that wasn’t. So there I was, really impressed by the film makers obviously achieving the intended old school aesthetic, and then a single shot managed to rip all that hard work apart: A badly framed and poorly filmed shot which included a character who looked like he had lost his way from a Matrix cosplay convention. The visual quality had degraded from old and trashy to just poor, and the acting and script were instantly terrible.
I have to say to its credit Malevolence was obviously made with passion. The whole thing is a love-letter to old slasher films, Halloween, Friday the 13th (part 2 specifically), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, for some reason, Reservoir Dogs. The problem is that it doesn’t actually do anything new with the ideas, it just copies them at a very base level. The fun in making something retro and throwback is to play on the tropes and clich├ęs, sometimes ramping them up, sometimes creating a pastiche and sometimes just executing them with solid skill. In Malevolence, as a man sits bleeding in the backseat of a car driving away from a bank robbery, Tim Roth being directed by Quentin Tarantino felt less like miles away and more like on another planet.
Fridavolence the 13th Part 2
The only redeeming moments in this film are when they effectively use the locations. The abandoned houses and garages are brilliant. With the low budget this film obviously had, I can only jump to the conclusion that these are real locations and they look better than any studio attempt to recreate the same. Unfortunately the rest of the film is just a pick ‘n’ mix collection of far superior iconic films. The killer wears a pillow case almost exactly from Friday the 13th Part 2, they run through fields and trees almost exactly like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the final rampage through the house is straight from Halloween, including a Michael Myers-esque human yet indestructible killer.
The Texas Chainsaw
Again I point out that writer/director Stevan Mena obviously loves the genre and knows all the elements that make a good slasher film. They are just all so incredibly watered down here. There is nothing particularly gory, no interesting twists and no central moral message. We are given a backstory for why Martin Portishead is so fucked up, and there is even a nearly interesting moment when an old diary is read out that chronicles his upbringing and turn to evil. The difference is Mike Myers has a goal, Jason Vorhees has a moral compass and Leatherface has his human anatomy arts and crafts hobby to fuel. In this film things just happen, everyone is a target for no reason and things play out step by step exactly as you would expect. 
Scary stuff!
Having a masked killer is intended to add an air of mystery to the perpetrator. It separates us from any human connection by rendering them expressionless and impossible to empathise with. Never knowing the true identity of your attacker leaves you somehow all the more helpless. So if there is ever a big ‘behind the mask’ reveal, it has to show us something or tell the audience something new. They decide to do exactly that in the final moments of the final chase, and it is revealed to us that the twisted and maniacal monster who has been chasing them is actually… some emo kid. From the very beginning of the film we know Martin Bradford Upon-Avon went missing at six years old and we are now ten years later. So the fact he is only a teenager is no surprise, what is surprising is that even though he lives in a dilapidated old house torturing innocent people for kicks, he still finds time to do his hair. I was half expecting to see him wandering around in an Asking Alexandria t-shirt and Black Veil Brides make-up.
It feels bad to completely slate this film because of its commendable heart. Having a love for a genre isn’t enough to be able to make something that holds up in that genre, let alone the scope of cinema in general. This film is testament to that. Everything about it is tired and dull, it’s all been done a million times before and most of the time, a lot better. Taking this film as it is, judging it simply by what you see on screen, it rarely peaks above terrible and knowing the history of the overflowing niche it aspires to fit into, it just becomes completely pointless.

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