Malevolence (April 10/05)
That Malevolence has received the kind of praise it has comes as something of a surprise, given that the movie just isn't that good. This is due mostly to the film's tedious midsection, in which the story essentially comes to a dead stop as various characters investigate their surroundings.
The story kicks off with a robbery that's clearly been inspired by Reservoir Dogs, a similarity that becomes crystal clear when two participants in said robbery engage in an argument revolving around disguises (ie Wolfman costume vs. Snow White costume). The remainder of Malevolence follows the crooks as they escape to a remote cabin in the woods, where the group's loose cannon has abducted a woman and her young daughter. Far more problematic is the presence of a hooded serial killer, who just happens to call the adjoining remote cabin home.
There's no denying that Malevolence is well made, as director Stevan Mena (along with cinematographer Tsuyoshi Kimoto) imbues the film with an effectively creepy vibe. But in terms of the movie's pacing, Mena quickly proves to be far less adept; certain sections of Malevolence are far more engaging than others, with most of the second act a complete write-off. In terms of the characters, they're generally a forgettable bunch - though you have to admire the stupidity of some of these people (ie one would-be victim heads to the worst possible place for help).
Finally, the film seems to end with a satisfactory conclusion, but nevertheless chugs along for an additional ten minutes with an entirely superfluous sequence detailing the killer's past. While Malevolence certainly isn't terrible - the movie is far more entertaining than most direct-to-video horror flicks (which isn't say much) - it's hard not to expect so much more given the amount of buzz that's been surrounding it.