in Steven Mena's "Malevolence", debt-ridden 20-something Julian
(Brandon Johnson) is hesitant to commit a bank robbery set up by his
manipulative girlfriend Marilyn (Heather Magee) and her ex-con brother Max
(Keith Chambers). Once talked into the crime (Marilyn uses a combination
of prodding, goading, and seduction), Julian and the two siblings arrive
at the bank, guns in hand. In order to conceal their identities, Max
brings along horror masks, to which Marilyn complains that she wanted a
Snow White mask (one of the film's intentionally funny moments).
Here's the kicker: the threesome, with the aid of a
fourth accomplice, performs the robbery in 2 minutes (as planned), races
out of the bank, and then has to run a great length down the sidewalk to
their parked getaway car. (Why didn't they park closer to the bank? Good
question.) In doing so, both Julian and Marilyn pull off their masks
while in full view of the public. This, of course, means everyone
they're running past -- which totals quite a bit of people, not
surprisingly, as the bank is located Downtown -- can see their faces.
Which begs the question: Why wear masks in the first place if you were
just going to pull them off in front of a dozen eyewitnesses?
The characters in Mena's independent horror film
may not be the usual lot of drunken and horny college students on Spring
Break, but they're still predictable spam fodder. Further convincing the
audience that these bank robbers are not criminal masterminds, one of
the robbers find himself on foot after his getaway car blows a tire in
the open road. He decides to commandeer a van belonging to soccer mom
Samantha (Samantha Dark) and her daughter Courtney (Courtney Bertolone).
(Way to be creative with the character names, guys.) Which leads to
this: although he's already exposed his face to the girl, the robber
nevertheless pulls his mask (a white pillowcase with holes for eyes,
which you'd think would offer poor peripheral vision, but I digress)
over his head anyway to await the mother's return to the van. Which begs
the question: if the girl already saw your face, why do you care if the
mother sees your face, too?
Or, more importantly, if you were going to carjack
a van in the parking lot of a gas station with other people around, why
would you pull a white pillowcase over your face and attract attention?
Then again, logic has no room in "Malevolence", a low-budget
horror film that is actually quite nice to look at in spots, if only it
didn't offer up such a poor script as companion. Another example: after
carjacking the mother and daughter, our robber continues to keep the
pillowcase on his head as they drive down the road, where he can be
spotted by anyone driving by in the opposite lane. Later, after taking
his hostages to the rundown house where he plans to meet his fellow
thieves, the robber continues to keep his pillowcase on. Why? I can only
surmise that he's hoping the girl, who I should remind you has already
seen his face, might somehow lose her memory. Hey, it makes more sense
than the movie.
Unquestionably derivative of just about every Teen
Slasher to surface in the '70s and '80s, in particular John Carpenter's
(aped here through various techniques, including odious synthesizer
music), it's possible "Malevolence" can lay claim to being
homage, if only it wasn't such a poor film. The girl does manage to
escape her captor (need I remind you that he's not very bright?), and
flees to a nearby house that is even more rundown than the house the
robbers are using. One look at the house's exterior, with its creepy
atmosphere and even creepier accompanying music, and there's little
doubt that evil -- or at least a hooded killer with a big knife --
Mena has brought only five people to the party, and our moron
robber/hostage taker takes a knife to the chest around the 30-minute
mark. This leaves reluctant robber Julian, his girlfriend, and the two
hostages to survive the killer, which they do for much too long in the
film's dragged out middle section. It's reported that Mena spent years
making "Malevolence". With all that time, you'd think he could
write a better script. During all those years, didn't he once realized
that his film was lacking? That it drags mightily, and that he doesn't
have nearly enough victims to maintain pacing?
The fact that Mena's script is lethargic and clichéd-ridden
is doubly disappointing considering that the film looks much better than
its budget, especially the exterior scenes early on. In any case,
"Malevolence's" most frightening sequences all involve slow
moving shots of the killer's house. Too bad the rest of the film never
comes close to matching those dolly shots of the killer's house.