Review: The MALEVOLENCE TRILOGY on Blu is A Must Buy For Any Slasher Fan
My first experience with the Malevolence trilogy came when I was in college when Bereavement was making its way to theatres. A good friend of mine worked at a local theatre and was given his pick of posters and he knew I loved horror films. He presented the poster for the Bereavement and asked if I wanted it. I did not. He retorted with “It has Michael Biehn”. To my knowledge the poster was thrown out. If you look at the climate of horror from 2004 (when Malevolence was released) to 2010 (Bereavement) it was filled to the brim with extreme remakes and torture porn. I’ll be open and honest about the fact that I judged Stevan Mena’s films off its poster and the sheer fact that it came out during a span of grimy, brutal films that I had no connection to. Had you of asked me in 2010 if I would have seen Malevolence or it’s prequel Bereavement, I would have said “Nah, I’m not into the torture porn thing”. Cut to 2019 and Stevan Mena is finally releasing all three movies on blu-ray that are packed with special features.
Fans of the series will be clamoring to own these and, yours truly, was sent copies to review. I’m finally able to make the plunge into Mena’s universe and experience the story of Martin Bristol – and I enjoyed myself. Let’s start with the film that started it all: Malevolence. The irony of Malevolence is that because of its sequel/prequel I had told myself that all the films would be the same never realizing that had I actually watched this film and not made a judgement I would have had an amazing time. It’s the slasher film I was dying to see in the 2000s but didn’t know existed! The movie is a regional horror gem filmed entirely in Allentown, PA and because of this it’s got this low-budget, DIY aesthetic that young Mikey Viers would have really vibed with. It’s also got one of the most unique set-ups to a slasher film I’ve EVER seen where it begins as a heist films that devolves into a slasher film! Yes, you read that right! Dog Day Afternoon becomes Halloween! I’m so in.
The film is a lot more fun that I would have ever given it credit for and topped with the DIY indie spirit I go nuts for, regional locations, serviceable acting and great cinematography how could we go wrong? If I have any REAL complaints about the film, it’s that I feel like Stevan Mena wears his influences on his sleeve a little too much and his “subtle” nods to other horror films aren’t as subtle as they were meant to be. You’ll know what I mean as soon as you hear some of the musical cues. Six years after Malevolence, Mena wanted to explore the concept of nature vs. nurture. These themes are present in Malevolence, but they weren’t explored nearly as deeply as Mena would have preferred. Malevolence 2: Bereavement (or just Bereavement as it was known theatrically) tells the story of a young boy named Martin Bristol (whom we find out in the first film is the killer) whose kidnapped at a very young age. The culprit is a man named Graham Sutter. This is, in my opinion, is the strongest Mena’s direction has ever been and it’s a fascinating character study of a mentally ill person (Sutter) and how he copes with his own abuse by abusing others (Martin Bristol and a slew of young women). There’s also this really interesting, surrealist aspect to the film with how he treats the skulls of the cattle he killed as tormenting gods. Bereavement is a weird film because it’s simultaneously the film I expected it to be, but it also wasn’t. The film can be grim and hard to watch with its lingering scenes of torture and violence against women… but it was at its best during the quiet moments. Long shots of beautiful scenery, moments of reflection and scenes of two characters just enjoying the silence with each other. It’s a fascinating experiment for sure and one of the most unique back stories to a movie killer I can think of. With all the answers that Bereavement gave us, we still don’t know what happened to Martin Bristol as an adult. At the end of the original film, he escaped. His victims escaped. There’s a lot of questions to be answered, so Stevan Mena decided to return to the world he created with Malevolence 3: Killer which picks up exactly where the original film left off.
With how interested Mena had been playing with genre tropes, this film kind of bummed me out with how generic it was at times. We’ve had this fascinating build up over two movies of Martin Bristol and this potential supernatural element for it to become a Halloween knock-off. I still need to give Stevan Mena credit, however. I can honestly feel like nothing will stop this guy from making the movies he wants to make despite not having the talent or budget he had on the other two. He will tell his story one way or another. Sadly, though, this film just didn’t work for me. I really wanted to like it, but all the unique jump scares he had in the first two films are gone and I get the general sense that none of the actors have a clue what to do with their hands. I feel like die hard Malevolence fans will find something to like in this film, but it wasn’t for me. Stevan Mena, who put these discs out himself, really pulled out all the stops. Every disc has a feature length commentary with himself and occasionally a guest. Malevolence actually got a new high definition scan of the 35mm print which was supervised by Mena himself and the cinematographer Tsuyoshi Kimoto (my favorite of the three cinematographers). On top of that each disc has a ton of interviews with cast, crew and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Stevan Mena goes to Adam Green levels to make sure you get your money’s worth on his titles.
Ultimately, I feel like I learned something from my experience with the Malevolence trilogy. First and foremost, if you live near a decommissioned slaughterhouse – DO NOT GO THERE! Steer clear. I also learned that you can’t judge a film by its poster and trailer as they aren’t always an accurate portrayal of the worth of the movie. A lot of time those promotional material are made by committee and are made to get the casual fan to see something, not to get a niche audience to hand over their hard earned dollars. Go outside your comfort zone occasionally and see a movie you weren’t expecting to like. I did that with Malevolence, and I found a new slasher gem that I can’t wait to show off to others. On top of that, I can’t wait to see see what else Mena Films decides to do now that his trilogy is wrapped up. I, for one, will be there when his next film drops.