Directed by: Stevan Mena
BEREAVEMENT: Ross Hughes finally gets his hands on the eagerly awaited sequel to slash classic MaleVolence and also sits down for a quick chat with franchise creator Stevan Mena……….
THE HUGHES REVIEW
It’s been six years since I last saw Martin Bristol, the poor child who was abducted at a young age and grew up to be the new Michael Myers. Six long years in which doing that time, Harry Potter has grown from a boy to a man, Superman returned and went again, Myers had the Zombie treatment twice, while Freddy and Jason all were revisited much to the fans dismay.
One of the many things I did not tell director Stevan Mena when I recently talked to him about his movie BeraVement is the fact that I had given up hope of ever seeing this character again. Most sequels are made on a rush to help jump on bandwagon caused by the success of the original and make no mistake just because MaleVolence was a cheaply made slasher film, its gained a massive reputation of being one of the greatest ever made, especially in a genre where films overcrowded with the same thing over and over.
Due to financial wrangles that caused any further films to be made, I honestly thought I was left with just one film to look back on, a magnificent horror that I would watch and sigh at the waste of such potential from concept to the outstanding talent of the director Mena who I really thought was on his way to being the new Carpenter for a new generation.
Over the years the hope slowly faded to one side, joining the likes of Back To The Future 4 in films that I could only wish for, even up until April this year I thought no more of MaleVolence until one day I decided to track down Mena for an interview I hoped he would give to us at Horror Cult Films. It was here when I was looking for a contact address I stumbled on a film called BeraVement, and the name Stevan Mena appeared above the title. Pointing the obvious and showing no sign of Columbo intelligence I mumbled “Must be his new one!” and soon joy filled my horror heart. “Mena is back!” I thought until I spotted something which made the joy become a rush of excitement that I rarely get in films. The V in the title stood out from the other letters and it immediately made me think of MaleVolence which had the same design! “Maybe it was just a Mena thing!” echoed in my brain until I decided to check out the plot details and realised that in front of me was without question the long awaited sequel to his first film.
Now the feeling I had is hard to put into words but a sheer rush came all over me. Not only was the evidence there in front of me, but it had already been made and most importantly was due out very soon. All of a sudden like a flash Scre4m which was my eagerly awaited film of the year had been replaced and BeraVement was in its place, but like MaleVolence I knew I had to wait. The film was only being released in limited cinema’s and not on Region 2 dvd so I knew the only chance I got to watching this film is to wait for the Region 1 release but what was a few months when I waited six long years.
“The birth of Martin Bristol is played right in front of your eyes”
FIVE MONTHS LATER:
Tonight my dream came true and when I put the copy of BeraVement into my DVD player and pressed play, I must admit I sat back nervous, simply because not only was the wait over, but having talked to Mena, I really wanted him to repeat the history he created with the original for reasons I was a film lover and because he was so damn likeable. I really believe he deserves all the success for the hard work he puts in and also because at heart, he is what we all want to be, a film fan living the dream!
So yes I admit I was a bit scared that BeraVement would flop, I mean how many sequels are just as good?
Originally, MaleVolence the sequel was going to be called MaleVolence Yesterday, and it was going to be nothing but a rehash of the original film. The original actors would be back but instead we see the same thing all over again but with the POV angle of the killer. It seems that the courtroom wrangle that caused the delay of the sequel being made was probably a good thing, because that idea sounds nothing more than a gimmick. Yes it would have pleased the fans, and I probably would have loved it, but now having seen the end result with BeraVement, you can see that there is much more scope to this story. Mena has not just ripped up the rule book to sequels but rewritten it, this guys is not quite what you expect!
This is not about a man in a mask. This is not The Continuing saga of Martin Bristol, this my friends is an altogether different vision that was created in MaleVolence and the only reason you realise at the beginning its the sequel is from the music and the credits that cry out “this is a Mena film!”
But the opening 5 minutes does dip its toes into what we have seen before and that is the abduction of Martin Bristol, only this time its extended. For all of you unfamiliar with the story then this is not the review for you, I am simply writing this for everyone who has seen the original and wants to know the direction this goes. If you have not seen the film MaleVolence, why the heck not? And why are you reading this? Please do not go any further and seek it out, but in case you are still reading then let me the answer the question that is lingering in your head. “Yes!” you can watch BeraVement without seeing MaleVolence, they both are created in such a way that they can both exist without each other but watching them both together, then WOW!
BereaVement is a prequel to what went on before, the version we heard from the diaries read out by the detectives at the end of the first film. This shows how a young boy who was taken from a swing in his garden can grow to become the ultimate bogyman. Yes it’s the back-story to which we all dread as an horror fan but Mena is to clever to just do that. By watching this and then MaleVolence straight after you realise the power this has, in fact I will give this film the highest compliment and say that this makes the original even stronger because this is just perfect in terms of what it sets out to be.
MaleVolence threw you into the deep end; we had a bank robbery and an old fashioned slasher that was loved by Halloween fans because its slash moments were so much like the Carpenter classic. Now what the follow up does is just adds the build-up to when Martin arrives as the bogyman. It’s like Carpenter announcing to the world that he is to do a new Halloween film and it’s going to be set on the day October 30th 1963 and we witness why a six year child decided to pick up a kitchen knife and never put it down!.
This is what Mena has given to the world of horror, a story that enhances the original in every single way and for that he must be applauded. This is the most perfect horror film that shows how a back story should be handled. Not once does he offer the viewer any sympathy for the plight of Martin who ends up doing some pretty awful stuff in this. By the time you get to the final scene in which Martin is “born”, he becomes the very thing that scared you in MaleVolence and that takes massive creative talent from Mena who once again shows the potential to become a major force in the horror field!
“In Despair and lost of all hope, Allison Miller is played by the wonderful Alexandra Daddario”
It is amazing how different the two films are. BereaVement is an old fashioned slow build up horror that is not concerned in giving away cheap tricks to the audience. Yes, there will be fans that may put their nose up to the snail pace and there will be slasher fans who may not take kindly to this new approach, but if you stick with it then you realise just what Mena was trying to achieve.
While the original was more in tune with the likes of Halloween, the sequel plays more like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre and while torture porn may from the outside play like a pivotal role in this film, Mena shows great restrain and does not go down the usual route to keep the gore hounds happy.
Even the bigger budget and more high profile cast (Michael Bien) does not sway the thinking of Mena who simply has this attitude that no matter what, this is the story he wants to tell and nothing is going to stop him. He also plays with fans expectations, especially with a Shining moment that may stun the more casual horror fan.
By the time you get to the end you be glued to the chair and you really are witnessing a new icon of the slash genre with the final twenty minutes showing the birth of a mad man that will not only wet your appetite for either watching MaleVolence again or better still have you excited for the already in pre-production MaleVolence III.
This is why BereaVement works on so many levels, in that it gets you excited again of a film that many thought was long gone in the vaults of cinema. You could argue that because I have interviewed this man then I may be swayed in given a false account of BereaVement but having not read one review of the film to avoid spoilers, I was stunned to find many high profile horror websites praising this very film and they should….
BereaVement shows that no matter how many times you write off the horror genre there is always someone who comes along and shows it’s not dead yet. Unlike the two films which are bleak and dark, Mena is a shining light in the genre that must be destined for great things and whoever has the rights for Halloween III they should look no further in his direction. Even thinking what he could have done with the re-make makes me weep at the wasted opportunity.
But then maybe I am missing the point. Why waste his talent on a now used up icon of horror when right in front of him is the name Martin Bristol, a guy who is the new kid on the block, a “shape” that has arrived with two outstanding films, one that introduced him and the other a back story full of dread and despair.
It only leaves the final and third film to see it all kick off because if the rumours are true then Martin is on his way home and its going to be some homecoming……..
A QUICK Q&A WITH DIRECTOR STEVAN MENA
Hi Stevan, how have you been? Its been such a long wait for me personally to finally get my hands on the sequel to MaleVolence and after six long years that film ambition was finally put to rest when I watched BereaVement tonight, can I start by saying I bet you relived that the film is finally out there for horror fans to see?
Yes, it’s been a long road to get the movie out there.
At first I have to admit that I was a bit wary of BereaVement, I hate horror films that find the need to explain everything to the film fan, I mean once they explained the “Shape”, Haddonfield was not a scary place anymore, so I was worried that your follow up would ruin all the good work MaleVolence created. Being a huge horror film fan yourself, did you see the danger in doing this story?
No, since the entire trilogy is part of one large story, I felt it had something to say, and would add another layer, whereas most sequels struggle to continue an idea that was never meant for more than one film.
I think what helped was the long gap between the two films, I was half way through BereaVement when I realised that you do not really need to see the original, both films work on their own, but put as one you have an all together different beast!
Yes, the intention was to have Bereavement stand on it’s own, which is why I removed Malevolence from the title, I didn’t want people to think watching Malevolence first was a pre requisite. And actually in a way it’s better to not have seen Malevolence, as there are more surprises that way.
In some way the gap between the two films has created an unexpected benefit to the franchise. On one hand you have fans like me who have been crying out for a sequel and then you have the other group who watch this film thinking its new and then have the added surprise of finding out that there is actually another film and its already out!
Yes that’s cool.
What stunned me is the different approach you have set out for BereaVement, I mean this is not the usual sequel you get in a slasher. I was a bit taken back by this at first because all I wanted was to see Martin Bristol back in full flow, but what I got was something else, more like the birth of a boogeyman. Were you worried that by changing the tone you may be alienating the slash fan base that helped the original MaleVolence become such a massive cult?
No, I thought that because Bereavement is a very layered and different approach, they would see there is more to the story. I didn’t want to repeat what I had already done. And also, many people felt the story behind Malevolence wasn’t fleshed out enough, and I wanted to demonstrate that yes it was, you just haven’t seen it all yet.
I struggled with BeraVement at first, simply because it was not at all the film I was expecting, and I must apologise and say I started to question the film, of course looking back I feel like a fool because the film works beautifully, I mean its the kind of horror fans may not appreciate until you get to the final credits, I actually admire you even more because its like you telling us fans “I have this vision and story to tell, stick with me and it be worth it?”, which I hope you agree is brave these days?
It’s not a film where you wait for the jump and the loud scare. It’s more of a character study on violence and abuse, and you watch it descend lower and lower, as the characters are slowly destroyed. Malevolence was designed to scare, whereas Bereavement was designed to disturb and shock.
Hats off to you kind sir for explaining the reason why a boogeyman like Martin can keep on rising after being stabbed, and shot, I did chuckle at the CIPA condition in which Martin can not feel any pain! I bet Sutter did not realise when he kidnapped the poor boy just how perfect his victim was going to become?
He had no idea, and Martins inability to feel pain actually perpetuated fear and confusion for Sutter of the boy, as he actually became the thing that Sutter was scared of.
While MaleVolence was more in tune with the Halloween films, I felt a Texas Chainsaw Vibe in BereaVement, probably helped by that meat hook scene, I suppose you are a fan of Leatherface or was that just a horror in-joke?
Aside from the setting of a butcher shop, for me that’s where the comparison ends. I see no correlation. John wayne and Clint Eastwood both wore cowboy hats. But again, that’s where the comparison ends. Bereavement and Texas are very different. Texas doesn’t spend any time with dramatic elements or structured storytelling. It’s shock for shock sake. Bereavement is shocking because it’s grounded somewhat in reality.
Another hats off to you for bringing a jolt to the system not seen since poor Dick Hallorann went running into that hotel and met his maker. There I was thinking in some way a certain character would be the hero only to find a gunshot at the chest and me left open mouthed. I bet you had great fun in playing with fans expectations?
Yes, in fact Michael Biehn was cast just for that purpose. No one thinks Biehn is getting killed without a fight. So his bravado helped me to pull that rug out from under the audience.
The main obstacle with BereaVement is the plot, because you know the good guys can not win otherwise the events of the original would not have happened, how hard was it writing a story knowing you have to somehow give the viewer hope that these characters will somehow get out alive? My wife who watched the film with me was screaming for the character to get out of that freezer and when I told her they have to die no matter what she was quite upset LOL…
It’s always a risk to end a film on a down note, and i paid the price because no one in Hollywood wanted to distribute a film that didn’t employ the typical happy Hollywood ending. But in life these things usually do end badly, and I didn’t want to punk out at the end and say well, actually it all ended happy ever after. Because that would have read false. To me anyway. Of course you want Alllison to rescue Martin and return him to his mother. But this isn’t that story, that’s a lifetime movie ending. Not a horror movie. Martin and his mom will reunite. Someday…
I do not know if this was intentional but the music score reminded me so much of The Fog, there were certain beats that made me believe the final scene will have Martin and Sutter on a lighthouse fighting off the ghostly sailors, you do such a fantastic job on the music score, is this going to be a regular trait in every film now?
I tried other composers on this film, but it didn’t work out. So maybe.
Someone just asked me on HCF what BereaVement was like, my answer was “Its nothing like the original, its a mix of Texas Chainsaw, with the music of The Fog, crossed with the first 10 minutes of the original Halloween!”, you can guess that it made them even more curious!….
For everyone who has bought BereaVement on DVD (and if not, why?) and you switched off the player when the credits rolled, then please stop reading this interview, and put the film back on and watch the credits again. Mr Mena has added a scene on that will make you want MaleVolence III come asap, you know sir, you are a tease and what made you come up with this additional scene?
That is actually a scene from Malevolence that was shot and never used. So we dug it up and added it as a segway to part 3.
Talking about the third and final film in the trilogy, I know the script was written years ago, so how far away from you to start shooting?
It all depends on Bereavement. If we sell enough DVDs, and it’s not pirated into oblivion, then they will let me do another one. The biggest obstacle right now is piracy. It’s hard to make any money on small films anymore, so thats the biggest hurdle.
Will the film continue from the same point of the original with Martin hiding in the wardrobe or because of the time passed and the original actors aged, will the film jump into a different scene?
I suppose I am cheeky in asking this but title wise, is it going back to its MaleVolence roots with an added 3 at the end or are you thinking of a separate title?
The tentative title right now is Alone: Malevolence 3.
Would that be it though with this franchise, you set out to make a trilogy and that is what is happening, but would you be tempted with a 4th because the critical acclaim and fan base is very high?
People are already asking about a prequel to Bereavement, and more of Sutter and his story before Martin. So maybe. Plus, if people like M3, then maybe, who knows?
One thing I have to say to you is that if there is one person who could save the Halloween franchise then its you, I honestly believe you and that franchise are destined to be together because I believe you have the style and vision to bring the “scare” factor back. Would you be interested in saving Michael Myers if offered a chance or do you feel its run its course and its time for something new?
I met with the Weinstein company once and it came up in conversation, but they decided to go with someone else. All good. I had a suggestion to reboot it from the moment that he falls out the window after Looomis shoots him. But oh well. No director realizes your not supposed to see michaels eyes through the mask. I laugh at each films failure to light for that that simple detail. Oh well.
Stevan I am not going to insult you by asking which film do you prefer MaleVolence or BereaVement, because to put it simply they are both films that deserve respect and admiration, I hope you realise you have made the third film even harder for yourself to pull off, because my expectancy level is now through the roof?
Stevan thanks again for this small chat, I hope you keep us informed for any news on the third film and I hope we speak soon…..
MALEVOLENCE is out to buy on Region 1 and 2 DVD!