STEVAN MENA TALKS TO HORRORCULTFILMS: An Exclusive Interview with the director of cult classic MaleVolence!


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Over the last few weeks we have had the privilege of interviewing many great Film Directors of the horror field and now this week we once again bring you another wonderful talent to emerge over recent years.  Here at Horror Cult Films we are extremely proud to present an exclusive interview with Film Director Stevan Mena the director of Cult Slash Classic MaleVolence and which the long awaited prequel BereaVement is now showing in a  cinemas near you.

Since we have known Ross Hughes, long before HorrorCultFilms was born, our Sub-Editor has been lavishing the praise on MaleVolence even putting it in his Top 10 Slash films of all time.  When we had the call that Stevan Mena kindly agreed to do an interview, it only seemed right that we send Ross to meet this great man.  Excited like a child at Christmas,  Ross could not wait to talk to this director that has been tagged the “new John Carpenter” but as Ross quite rightly told us before he left “forget the name tag, soon the horror world will know a sign of a good movie when they see A Stevan Mena Film donned at the top of the title!”………

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AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVAN MENA

First of all can we say how honoured we are at HorrorCultFilms that you have found time to sit with us and answer a few questions. Can we start by telling our loyal readers a bit about yourself, a little history, what inspired you to go into film making and where you feel you fit in with today’s market? 
Sure, I live in Long Island, NY, I have been a filmmaker since age 11, so I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have a camera in my hand. I’m not sure where I fit in, I guess the audiences will decide, and then people who finance films will then decide if I can keep makin them!

I am so excited that I am doing this interview with you simply because for the last few years I have been shouting from the roof tops at how good Malevolence is. I recently put it in my Top 10 of best Slasher movies ever made and that stunned myself because the slash genre is my favourite of all horror and there are so many to choose from! Are you stunned at how such an unknown movie has become this worldwide Cult hit? 
Wow, top 10? That’s amazing, thanks!! When I consider how that film was made by rubbing two sticks together, it’s really cool to hear about people who actually enjoyed watching it. I wish I could say I enjoyed making it, but it was pure pain. But sometimes good art is born out of trying circumstances. I don’t know how it became a worldwide hit. That’s truly incredible.

I believe that Malevolence worked on so many levels because it seemed like a love letter to Slash of old! Was this your intent? 
Absolutely, the idea came about after watching Scream. If Craven can lampoon horror, then I wanted to remind people why we liked those films in the first place. I wanted it to feel like it was made in 1981.

One thing I picked up on was that there were some very Carpenter type  moments, the killer standing watching from behind, it was very Michael Myers! I remember turning around to the friends who I was watching with and saying  “This guy must love Halloween!” Prove me right and say that it is your favourite Slash horror? 
Halloween is not only my favorite slasher, but one of my favorite films of all time. It’s the perfect suspense movie. Sheer fun from beginning to end, and like Elvis, there’ll never be another one as good.

Even though Malevolence is a Slash film, there are many looping plot threads through out, its not as simple as a man wearing a mask hacking virgins to death, I mean there is a lot at stake apart from the usual, was it vital for you to offer more than just a typical stalk and slash? 
Yes, this was my donation to the genre, layering in drama, and then putting them in double jeopardy,so as to up the ante and to also provide for some misdirection. However even this misdirection was first introduced in Psycho. But I had never seen it done quite the way we executed it. And I’m not a fan of the 10 little Indians scenario of kids just written in to have sex and do drugs then get stabbed. Just because it’s formulaic doesn’t mean it automatically works. Just see the Friday Remake. I like atmosphere and dread. Those things work for me. Like when the dark staircase meets the creepy music. That’s the fun stuff.

Malevolence was such a huge unexpected hit and now we are having a prequel which actually threw me a little when I found out! I have to be honest and say that Bereavement is my movie event of the year and a film I can not wait to see. Please tell our readers more about this unexpected delight? 
Bereavement is the story of how Martin came to be the ruthless killer he is. It expands upon the story introduced at the end of Malevolence, the storyof  Graham Sutter and how he kidnapped and indoctrinated Martin into his world of murder. It’s quite a reversal from Malevolence, so people should NOT go in expecting mindless slashing. There are three times as many murders this time around, and far more brutal. But how we arrive there is much more intricate and elaborate. I hope the fans dig the new direction, and not think it’s my own Jazz Odyssey.

With a gap of six years between the two films, most directors would have jumped on the bandwagon and made a sequel straight away. One of the main criticism (and unfairly) of Scre4m is the gap between the third and fourth films, were you worried that you may have left it too long and the fans of Malevolence may have moved on? 
Well, I had no choice. Malevolence got mired in legal battles. Some people allow greed to affect their good judgement, and because of that, we never saw a dime of revenue from Malevolence. But that finally got all sorted out, and luckily I was able to move on and continue the series. If it wasn’t for greed, we’d be taking about part 3 now. Hopefully there is still interest after all this time. And I hope it was worth the wait. The film was three years in the making, from first shot to final edit.

Without being disrespectful to the original cast who done a superb job, the prequel offers the service of Michael Bien, does the more glamour of the casting add more pressure to deliver a second time around?
No, it makes your vision come alive in ways you didn’t think possible, and the added talent and experience they bring makes the job easier not harder. They remove pressure. Like they say, surround yourself with good people. I was lucky in that regard with bereavement. The entire cast is top notch in my opinion, especially Rickaby and Daddario. Just amazing people.

Can we move away from Malevolence and Bereavement for a minute and ask you to name one interesting fact about yourself.

I absolutely love classic films. 1930’s-50’s. I’m a huge fan of the old stuff, and prefer the classics to modern day films. My fantasy would be to go back to the time before television and make movies. Back when movie premieres were events, and played for months or in some cases years on the big screen. Somehow seeing people pirate my films for free and watch them on their phones just takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of the process.

If you had the chance to spend an evening in a pub talking movies with  any director, alive or dead, who would it be and why? 
Stanley Kubrick. I’d need a few days. Id ask him to explain a few of those scenes. You know the ones…

Which ones, I am curious?
Well, the ending of the shining, the multiple meanings inferred behind the photograph, the missing 20 minutes of the beginning of 2001, why did he remove them, the ending of that movie, those would be a few I’d start with.

Who are your influences?
Ridley Scott, Carpenter, Kubrick, Spielberg, Eastwood, Fincher, Wilder, HITCHCOCK

Back to the Malevolence, when I found out there was going to be a prequelI had an added bonus of the news that you will complete the arc with a trilogy! I bet you must be delighted to be given this opportunity considering most horror films these days do not get passed the first film? 
Haha, who said I would? I know people who want me to make it, but Bereavement has to prove itself before people will write a check. The best way to see Malevolence 3 is to buy a BR or DVD of Bereavement, and not pirate it. Pirating doesn’t hurt the big boys, but it destroys guys in the indie space. We live film to film, so we need the money, believe me. And it goes to people who trusted us with their money, so if you want them to trust us to make more, buy, don’t steal. Or there’ll be nothing left but big corporate films. Unless that’s what you want.

Talking about Pirating, of course we at HCF frown against it, but this week has seen The Human Centipede II being refused a certificate in Great Britain, and for the fans in this country we probably never get to see it!  Of course this follows the debate of last year’s A Serbian Film, a film that was downloaded many times for fans so desperate just to see what the fuss was the about.  Being such an horror fan yourself, do you think that ruling like these do more harm than good?  The amount of emails we have had at the office that fans are just going to download is surely going to do more damage when all they have to do is treat the fans like adults!
That is a question whose answer is predicated by the scenario. I am against the banning of any movie, (except maybe another Halloween remake, feel free to ban that),  but if there was no chance my movie would ever be seen except by downloading, then what have I got to lose.

You have really nothing to lose really and its so frustrating that films get banned with the choice being taken away from the viewer itself!  Being a Filmmaker and a very talented one, with many  tipping you for great things, would you feel frustrated if all your hard work in a film was then not granted to be shown?
But companies are very scared to spend money on indie releases anymore. So if I convince them to, and then the movie doesn’t sell because everyone is just grabbing it for free online, what is their incentive to ever distribute another of my films. And moreover, if they don’t get paid, then my investors don’t get paid, and so they won’t put money up for my next film. And so then I am forced to wait tables or take up painting. So you see, the big corporAtions will still flourish, but the small films, which if you remember, Halloween, Texas and even elm st were indies, those small films will disappear. And that doesn’t just suck for indie filmmakers. It sucks for the fans. But they don’t realize that film they just got for free, just prevented the next film by that filmmaker to get made, so they will never get to see it. If you like it, support the guys who sacrificed everything to get it made.

What can you tell us about the third film? 
M3 is all about Martin being unleashed into the suburbs. He goes back home to find his family. But things don’t turn out so well. This one is not stop action and suspense. Very fast paced and very scary!

Back to Bereavement for a minute and I read an article that the film was originally going to be called Malevolence Yesterday. Why the title change?
Wow, you did your homework! Well, the script changed, dramatically. M2: Yesterday was basically Malevolence all over again, same cast and everything, but shot from the killer’s perspective. And all the things you didn’t see the first time around. So it was basically Malevolence from a different POV, which eventually changed the whole ending. But then, so much  time passed that  we couldn’t shoot it because people change. So I went back to the original story. And it’s a good thing, because the original story was far superior. Yesterday was a gimmick, and I think it would have come across ultimately as a bad idea.

I have to ask you this because we were having a serious debate in the HorrorCultFilms office the other day about these re-makes! I hate them with a passion, I feel they are pointless especially when this generation are bypassing the originals! I actually had a conversation one day with a young man who said “there was no point in watching the old Halloween because hehas seen the new one!” how would you feel in 10 years time if someone decided to re-make Malevolence? 
Well, If I got paid for it, then I would finally have made some money on the damn movie! So I’d be all for it! I’m not so far out that I think no one can improve on my film. Malevolence has many areas that could be improved (in my opinion). However, I am very against remaking films that are perfect. Such as Halloween, or Texas. How would everyone feel about a Jaws Remake? While we’re at it, let’s re record Sgt. Pepper. Or Stairway.

What is the plan after these films? More horror or are you going to branch out and show your wonderful talent elsewhere in a different genre?
I plan to do more drama. If they’ll let me. And Sci fi. I also have a ghost picture that will kill people. I promise the sickest ghost story ever made.  Maybe someday.

Finally, what is your favourite movie of all time, and why? 
Tie between Twelve Angry Men and Unforgiven. If the Human race were to be wiped out tomorrow, then Aliens in a few hundred years came to Earth, and the only record of our existence was a dvd, I hope that dvd is 12 Angry Men. It encapsulates every nuance of the human race in one film. It’s the greatest film ever conceived, and so simple it all takes place in one room. If I could have one script today to shoot, that would be number 1 on my wish list. Then there’s Unforgiven. Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece. It should be taught in film school. The scene on the hill where he hears about his friend being killed, and he starts drinking again, is the single greatest piece of cinema. ever.

Ross Hughes and HorrorCultFilms  would very much like to thank Stean Mena for taking the time to do this interview.  We firmly believe that given the chance, Mena can become one of the great directors in the horror genre and we wish him all the best for the future.  We hope our readers will seek out his new film Bereavement and that in two years time he is back here talking about MaleVolence III

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Ross Hughes on why he loves MALEVOLENCE so much!
I suppose the question is “why I love Malevolence so much?”

I have already told the director of this fine film that his horror is in my Top 10 of all time Slash films which is quite a statement considering regular readers of HorrorCultFilms know that this is the genre that I love the most!  There are so many films out there that many consider the best, for every Scream fan you meet a Hatchet fanatic and then you have the crowd who can spend an evening arguing who is the best between Freddy and Jason even though a film itself failed to end this argument!  Then of course you have got the Granddad of them all, a film that all should look up to, Halloween and its that name that registers in your mind when you first watch Malevolence simply because the pararells between the two are to hard to ignore!  But then before I get to the answer to the question that started this review, I suppose I need to go back to the beginning, and this story starts in 2005, a year when my favourite football club lifted the European Cup for the fifth time and the name Stevan Mena would enter my life!

2005 saw the beginning of the end of J horror!  Films of a crazed woman ghost with long black hair were beginning to tire especially with the American re-makes of the original films beginning to hit the screen at an alarming rate.  That year had already seen The Ring II and Dark Water get the glossy treatment to not much critical joy and the theme of spooky freaky stuff was awash with other films like Hide and Seek and Bogeyman all jumping on the bandwagon.  Other films did not fare better and the biggest shock of the year was the Scream duo of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson flopping big time with their Werewolf disaster Cursed that still to this day you can feel the deep level of gasp the fans suffered on first watch.  Unknown at the time a new theme was beginning to rise from the depths of the horror ocean and it was going by the name of Jigsaw whose second outing in Saw II gained even more fans and bucks that the term gore-porn was all set to enter the mind of horror fans everywhere.  Saw was the name on everyone’s lips, the blood and violence was
just what the fans wanted after a few years of haunting and while the cinema goers were thrilled by the body parts flying across the screen,  a Slash film of old was begging to be found, and I am not talking about the Paris Hilton film -no not that one- House Of Wax of course!

The film in question is of course MaleVolence a movie that was released in 2004 and was criminally ignored by mostly everyone!  Its not my job to complain about the injustice of it all and why it did at the time not get the appreciation it fully deserved but the power of the film was too good to ignore, like all good stories it refused to die and something strange was happening, for Mena it was a start of something that was quite stunning!

The lack of advertisement in Great Britain meant that MaleVolence headed straight for the DVD market where one day on my way to work I picked up my monthly film magazine and my eye was drawn to a small advert of the film.  I remember the quote “Possibly the best Slasher film for years” underneath the art cover which struck a chord with me.  I really needed to this film to see how such a critic could dare say this about a film that was unheard. of, but watching it back then it was near impossible.  All my local Video stores did not have it stock and online rentals were not even heard of then, so trying to get this film was near impossible.  Not even the shops that stocked videos and DVD’s to buy had any so I knew that this was a film that will probably pass me by.  A few weeks later  I had to work away and one day on my lunch break I stumbled into the local Supermarket and while glancing at the DVD section my heart stopped. My eyes were drawn to a cover that was staring back at me and my horror juices were going in full flow, no I did not find a deluxe copy of Halloween but that of MaleVolence and the thrill of getting this film was too much to bare and with haste, I paid for it, finished work early and rushed home to watch it.

You can guess I was not disappointed!

MaleVolence is a throwback to years gone bye.  Like Mena said in is interview with me that his main intention was to remind fans what was great about these films in the first place.  Its not just a lavish love letter to slash of old but a gentle reminder of when the late 70’s and early 80’s were awash of slash films that were destined to be loved.  You could easy put a copy of the 1979 classic Tourist Trap and then MaleVolence and you really would believe that the two films were born in the same era!

But then MaleVolence is not that simple when it comes to the Slash formula! What is amazing now if you watching for the first time is that the opening sequence will bring a sigh of despair, if only for a brief few minutes but that is no fault of Mena or the film!  The films starts with a  kidnap of a young boy who then has to witness a woman being strung up and all set to be tortured and killed by the local serial killer!  For that few seconds we see on screen there is no denying that the newcomer will think that what they about to watch is just another Saw wannabee and that is because so many films have been released that start the same even though the jigsaw story was just starting to walk when Malevolence was released!  Lucky this dip into what seems the gore-porn wave is a blink and miss moment and we set off in a total different direction that actually throws you off the scent for a while.

TEN YEARS LATER
The main thrust of the story is of a bank job that goes wrong!  Julian (Brandon Johnson) and Marilyn (Heather Magee) are in  desperate need for money and take the iillogical step of robbing a bank.  Hooking up with Julian’s brother Max (Keith Chambers)and his friend Kurt (Richard Glover) the plan goes all Reseviour Dogs with Max shot and the entire police force chasing them.  With the dual chaos of the gang seperating, Kurt is left all on his own and running for his life until he stumbles on an empty car at a gas station and jumps in.  Of course being an horror there is no such thing as an easy ride, and sitting at the back seat is an innocent child called Courtney (Courtney Bertolone) who is waiting for her mum Samantha (Samantha Dark) to return.  When she does, Kurt in sheer survival mode kidnaps the two and forces them to drive him to an abandoned farm house in the middle of nowhere, where he will meet up with Julian and Marilyn.
If you new to this film and yet to watch, you can tell by reading that this is no straight Stalk and Slash horror which you may come to expect.  There are no silly girls with big breasts running up the staircase when they should be heading for the door.  Its a film that I would call the anti Scream, in which there is no time for playful antics.  It also works because the set up moves away from the usual cliche of high school virgins getting hacked to death.  Its like what Shrek said in his onion speech, its all about the layers and MaleVolence is all about stripping away them all until we get to the Slash part.  In the first half hour we have an abduction, a b
ank robbery, a kidnap, before we finally hit the night time.  You would only guess that you are watching an horror movie due to the fact that Mena’s own personal score which is haunting and signals that there is something evil lurking in the shadow.
When Courtney is brave enough to try and escape and runs away towards a house nearby with Kurt following, the film swings from wrong heist to full fledged horror and its here we get an introduction to the new bogeyman in town!  What is great is that there is no sense of what is going to happen.  In different hands, any other director would have showed their hand early and not been brave enough to show the same restrain that Mena managed to.  There is an argument that some horror fans may find the lack of horror at the start a bit off putting but it reminded me of say Halloween, where the slow build up pays off to a tremendous affect.  You can say the same here, because when Kurt bumps into the last person on earth he should have, and then when we see Julian and Marilyn turn up to look for him, its right at this moment your horror juices are flowing and if you are a slasher fan of old, then you will be in your element!
 MaleVolence becomes the very thing you love about slash and the nods to the great films of the past will have you cheering with joy.  There is a moment that will have Myer fans smiling from ear to ear, it comes when we see Julian and Marilyn talking to each other and we the viewer see this Boogyman looking at them through the window.  But it gets better. The killer who could easy be Michael but is dresed up like Jason from Friday 13th Part II creeps silently in the shadows, unseen and always watching but ready to move without any disregard for human life.

There is just something very simple and beautiful about the movie, from the music that nods to Carpenter and the way its filmed, it plays  like the bastard offspring of the films you loved has a child and you can see why it is so universally loved by those who have seen it!  Also what works even more so in its favour is that Mena does not throw buckets of blood to the screen so for those who are sick of scenes of excessice torture and limbs flying across at them will find great delight at the old fashioned setting.  The main intention is to build the suspense and then shock the viewer when the killings start, it surely makes the point that they do not make them like this anymore.

Of course even for my undying love for the film I can not deny that Malevolence does not offer no new suprises to the genre.  When the Bogeyman starts to have fun, the sequence is set for Halloween type shots that you find hard to shake.  The moment that that sums this up is when Julie is standing to her back from the staircase and the killer slowly starts to creep behind her.  It is a pure horror slash moment that makes you wonder just what Mena could do if he was offered a Halloween film.

Maybe my love for Myers is a bit biased towards MaleVolence because make no mistake this is the closet I felt with a horror that touches the blueprint that Carpenter wrote.  If I had to find fault and its a small one, is that once the killings are done and the film moves back to the daylight, we get a 10 minute sequence that explains a lot of the back-story. Its always good to keep the horror viewer in the dark and not have everything explained to them but again in Mena’s defence I believe that he wrote this in mind in hope that a prequel/sequel would be made or if not and this was just a one off, then he leaves the viiewers with all the answers they require.  Of course with the now official prequel in the cinemas (see trailer below), Mena should not have worried. The film does end though in a typical slash fashion, you know that its coming but you do not know how, and I have to say its a belter which makes you wish that in the cinema now was the third film which continued this story from this end point and hopefully we do not have to wait another 7 years to see this story arc finally come to its conclusion.

Lets go back then to the original question “Why I love MaleVolence so much?”  To answer that I have to give you two reasons:
The First is that I simply believe that if all Slasher fans including myself were given a budget of $200,000 and was told to go out and make a Slash film, then nearly 95% of us would make something just like MaleVolence.  It really does have this feel of being a slasher made for all the fans of the genre.  On first watch I could smell the love of these films throughout and I instantly had a connection with Stevan Mena. The film gives this air that this is a director who is living his dream, doing something many of us wish we could but have not got the drive to do anything about it.  For 90 minutes of the running time I was in a jealous rage that Mena had done something that I always wanted to do, but was also in awe that he managed to pull it off!

The other reason is that many films that I cherish in my life hold so much debt to Malevolence.  Back in 2005 I was still a young lad under the impression that films that were not released to box-office glory were not considered good enough to seek out.  Malevolence changed my outlook to this awful attitude.  It introduced me to a world where the thrill is to seek out films that were so good but unloved, to have a mission to spread the word about films that deserve their time in the limelight!  Only a few weeks after watching Malevolence, others came to light like the truly classic Session 9 which caught my eye and that was followed by Lighthouse and many others.  Its a trait that have stuck with me to this day and films like The Torment, Baby Blues, The Objective, are all which I believe are masterpieces of horror but widely not known to the wider public which have now entered my best of all time chart!  its thanks to this film that I now look forward to seeing what hidden delights get released on Monday Morning DVD shelves than the big hitters which sail straight to the top of the box-office!

While doing my research for MaleVolence I stumbled on a few negative reviews that made me weep and angry.  “Its just a copy of films of old!” was one that stuck out and made me shake my head with frustration.  Yes there are moments that you can see are homage to films like Halloween, Texas and Friday but what is the problem with that.  MaleVolence struck a chord with fans everywhere because it offered a new Bogeyman to the genre.  How can you criticise a film that follows the blueprint of Slash and offers a new character to the horror vault.  Mena who is surely destined for big things, offers more in the ninety minute running time than any of those dire re-makes of old classics that seem to be coming out an alarming rate.  There is no comparison between this and say the Jason re-make.  What did that offer?  Nothing, no I am sorry it did show us that Jason can run and that was it, did every horror fan watching that turn to their partner or friends and say straight after “Oooh, can not wait for the sequel!”  I guess my answer would be no, but at least with MaleVolence you WILL want to see the continuation of this story.  Not many films are made on the cheap like this and become such a worldwide cult hit, and one of the best signs you can have is that this, an unheard horror, has now actually got a sequel nearly 7 years later.  Not many films manage to pull that off but that is what is happening to MaleVolence with the prequel BereaVement that is already gaining rave reviews.  Unlucky for me it seems that history is repeating itself with my local Cinema not showing it and with my refusal to download to support Mena with his ambition to make the trilogy, it seems you the readers will have to wait a few months yet for my review when once again I will keep an eye out at a local Supermarket to pick up my copy, lock up work early and rush home to watch.
They say history does repeat itself, I hope for me personally it does and after finally watching BereaVement, I will have a new film to shout from the rooftops like I did all those years ago when a little film called MaleVolence came into my life!…….
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLX9QBJKjZA

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About Ross Hughes 1939 Articles
Since my mother sat me down at the age of five years of age and watched a little called Halloween, I have been hooked on horror. There is no other genre that gets me excited and takes me to the edge of entertainment. I watch everything from old, new, to cheap and blockbusters, but I promise all my readers that I will always give an honest opinion, and I hope whoever reads this review section, will find a film that they too can love as much as I do! Have fun reading, and please DO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!!

2 Comments

  1. Great interview Ross, a perfect interview actually! Stevan Mena has done himself proud with those answers, very honest and insightful. Loved the ceonsordhip questions too you sneaky sod, mixing current affairs in with it all! This interview is so good, and actually feel like reading it again. Really looking forard to the prequel to Malevolence, and I think its time to dog out Malevolance itself and have another viewing of it. Great stuff mate 😉

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