Here’s a double feature to savor as we approach the Halloween season.
2004 saw the emergence of the low budget horror film ‘Malevolence.’
Penned, directed and produced by New Yorker Stevan Mena for a budget under 200,000 dollars, this great horror film tells the story of a group of bank robbers who, after taking their ill gotten gains from a Pennsylvania bank, decide to meet at an abandoned house to split their booty and go about their merry ways.
What said robbers do not know is the house they have chosen to meet at is home to Martin Bristol; a boy who had been abducted by a serial killer named Graham Sutter at age six and forced to live in a house of horrors for years.
Now a man, and twisted by his experiences into a serial killer in his own right, Martin runs afoul of his newfound house guests and pops in and out of the picture to dispense with them with his own hack and slash frenzy.
The house in question is adjacent to an old abandoned Slaughter house; the Sutter family business. At the beginning of the film, we are briefly shown the aftermath of Martin’s abduction, and the first time Sutter kills a girl in front of him.
As the criminals make their getaways from the bank, one of them has car trouble. He abducts a young woman and her daughter from a local gas station, and they become his hostages.
The focus of this story element shifts as Martin takes center stage. The young woman’s daughter witnesses Martin almost killing her mother in a fashion that creepily echoes the Sutter scene from the beginning of the film.
There are certain rough edges that one expects from a low budget film, I.E. the camera angles on some scenes, etc. All in all though, the movie is slick, well thought out, and it screams the fact that Mena worked to veer away from Slasher movie clichés we may have seen a million times. (He says this was a conscious choice on a behind the scenes montage on the DVD.)
2011 has seen the emergence of the prequel to ‘Malevolence.’
In ‘Bereavement,’ viewers are given a fuller look into the abduction of Martin Bristol. Graham Sutter, who in the previous film was a shadowed face in an opening montage, is in full view here. He’s played by actor John Savage in a wonderful portrayal of psychosis and smoldering rage.
What’s surprising is that the abduction and torture of Martin at age six and then his abuse at age 11 is done with real children. They are on camera, and 11 year old Martin specifically does/witnesses horrible things.
I read an interview online where Stevan Mina was interviewed about this, and talked about being careful with the kids in question. He does approach them with what looks like a sense of care and respect, (seen in the behind the scenes footage on the DVD.)
Overall the young actors shine with what they are given. 11 year old Martin never speaks, but his eyes speak volumes.
The bank robbers this time around are replaced with nearby townsfolk.
A young girl named Allison moves in with her Uncle (played by Michael Biehn) and Aunt, in a house down the way from the Sutter place.
Allison has had her parents die, and moves in with her family afterwards. There are the moments of fitting in, and of her butting heads with her Uncle that comes in films of this nature. They are counterweighted by visions of Sutter abducting young women and torturing/killing them.
As you view the family drama and begin to care for them, you are systematically reminded that they are fated for a meeting with hell.
Allison passes her time by taking a daily jog, and spending time with a young man she meets down the road on one of these runs.
It is during one of these runs that she spies Martin looking out from the broken windows of the Sutter Slaughter house.
In a spell of caring inquiry, the young woman enters the place to find out more about the young man, and finds herself taken prisoner.
I will not ruin what happens next or the ending, but will say that it is a well acted ride that doesn’t end the way you might think it does.
There were one or two moments that I found myself screaming at the screen when an element or two was introduced that I didn’t agree with, but all in all this film works.
It is a nice companion piece to its predecessor, and a great tale all around
Mena says on the commentaries/features that these films are two parts of a trilogy. I find myself longing for the third after seeing both films, and really hoping that he continues on his path to making really cool films.
He’s a horror fan and it shows, and his fresh twists on the genre are welcomed. If all his work turns out to be as good as these films are, I plan on being with him for the distance. Watch them both, and I’m sure you will feel the same way.