Malevolence 3: Killer (2018)

AUGUST 14, 2023


According to Amazon, I purchased my Blu-ray of Malevolence 3: Killer in October of 2018, which means it’s been sitting there for five years waiting for me to finally get the energy to watch it. Why would I need "energy", you ask? Because despite being a big fan of the first two films (the second one was simply called Bereavement when released, though it’s been since retitled Malevolence 2: Bereavement), I knew this one was compromised due to the tragic death of one of its main actors with only about half the film being shot. Being an independent production that was already strapped for cash, writer/director/bunch of other things Stevan Mena couldn’t afford to just reshoot with a different actor, so after sitting on his completed footage for about two years, he figured out a way to salvage some of the man’s performance and his story with some new actors, adding new scenes, changing the ending, etc. So basically, a Frankenstein’d movie, most of which never turn out all that good.

And guess what: it’s not very good. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not a very good trilogy closer either, and I’d be curious if the original version would have even been all that much better. For starters, Mena shot the movie on digital this time, so it was already losing the old-school charm of the others, which were shot on film (Super 16 in Malevolence’s case), which along with the period settings truly made it feel like some lost slasher of the golden era for these things. Neither film was particularly inventive when it came to the story, but it was the “back to basics” approach (more so in the first one; Bereavement was closer to survival horror than traditional slasher) that made it stand out in the post-Scream, “everything has to be ironic” era. It was just a straightforward slasher, with some green but not intentionally “bad acting” performances, that made it work as well as it did. But here, by shooting digitally (and doing almost nothing to sell the supposed 1999 setting, as Killer narratively takes place only a day after the original) it instead feels like another generic slasher from the 2010s, with little to distinguish itself from so many others.

But more troublesome is how little it connects to the first two. For those uninitiated, Malevolence was the middle part of the story, with Bereavement, despite coming out later, actually the first part. I assumed there was some solid reason for doing it this way that would become clear with this new film, but we learn almost nothing about killer Martin Bristol here, and there’s no real reason for him to go after the people he kills in this one. You know that scene in Halloween II where Michael kills that one neighbor girl after he robs the Elrods of their kitchen knife, and how it seems like an unnecessary detour considering he’s supposedly going after Laurie? (Hardcore fans know the scene was added later to get another kill in, but that’s irrelevant.) Well that’s kind of how this whole movie feels, except it's just the padding with none of the connected payoff. We pick up immediately after the events of Malevolence, which ended on Martin going after the two survivors (the blonde woman and her daughter). Whether it was the aging or actor availability or what, we don’t get a proper resolution to this cliffhanger – their bodies are just found later, and Martin sets his sights on a trio of college girls who rent a house together somewhere in the suburbs.

(He also kills the woman who lives next door to them, which results in the Final Girl having to look out for the woman’s daughter – a plot point that also surfaced in The Third Saturday in October Part V, another throwback slasher. Did I miss this plot happening in one of the OGs?)

Why these particular people, you may ask? Your guess is as good as mine! It was established in the first one that he wasn’t exactly cruising the town for victims, offering more of a Jason style “they were in his territory” kind of a motive (for lack of a better word), but here he’s just slicing up folks around town at random, which gives the film a properly high body count and even a few '80s style unusual kills (lawnmower blade!), but it doesn’t quite gel with the MO he displayed earlier, so even though it’s the same actor it feels like a different character entirely. His whole “inability to feel pain” thing doesn’t even really come up; he is shot near the end and naturally escapes, but that’s common among all masked slashers, so it’s not exactly notable. Malevolence offered the twist that the killer was not the guy who kidnapped the kid in the first scene, but the (now older) kid himself, and then Bereavement showed how he got to be that way, but now it’s just standard stalk 'n slash fare, with zero payoff for the confusing timeline stuff. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just say it’s X number of years later and the FBI Agent Perkins (Kevin McKelvey, I believe the lone returning cast member besides Jay Cohen as the killer) still obsessed with finding him, as opposed to halfheartedly saying it’s the next day when there’s no real in-plot reason for it? And then they could say these girls were living on the ground that used to be his factory/home, since razed, which would at least give him some sort of motive for setting his sights on them.

Of course, it’s possible that this is where the death of the actor put a wrench into things, as he was playing one of the FBI guys along with Perkins. Mena’s solution was to give Perkins a couple other agents to assist him, so basically every time we see him he’s with one of the three, to give the impression that there’s a whole team working on this and whenever Perkins is with one, the other two are following up on a different lead. But that leads me to believe that while perhaps the “buddy movie” element (as Mena refers to it) was lost, it didn’t have too much effect on the plot as a whole, as he hired two new actors to handle the deceased performer’s role in the scenes he didn’t film, assigning them his original dialogue. And I can’t imagine for a second that whatever changes he was forced to make to the script had him somehow omitting the reason Martin was going after these random girls who don’t appear to live anywhere near him, and that’s a big part of why the movie doesn’t measure up to the others. Long story short, I don’t doubt the film took a hit from the actor’s loss, but it seems there was something “less than” about the whole project from the get-go.

Mena provides a commentary, as always, but while he starts off about the actor’s death and how he almost considered abandoning the movie entirely, after that initial explanation he rarely speaks about that element, instead focusing on the usual low budget pitfalls, working as his own DP this time (in addition to composing and editing as he had done for the other two), etc. Most surprising and delightful: he points out that the teenaged girl from Malevolence actually came back to play her corpse, even though you only see her legs because she had aged too much (again, it’s supposed to be the next day) so they couldn’t show her older face. The dedication! I wish he spent a little more time explaining what the scenes he couldn’t use (and says he’ll never release out of respect for the actor) would have entailed, however; he makes it clear that not everything was able to be given to the other two actors he hired, but doesn’t get into specifics. It’s very possible that the reason the stuff with the girls is so random is because it was only meant to give the film some kills in between longer FBI scenes, only for it to become the focus, but if so he doesn’t say as much. He also notes that they didn’t have a dedicated documentary team, which explains why the “making of” on the disc is just a collection of random, narration-free behind the scenes shots and outtakes. Oh and he says his sound team didn’t even realize it wasn’t film until he told them, which I guess means it’s a good thing that they’re sound guys and not visual guys, because yikes – it’s not even a good digital look!

Of more use is a ten minute piece on how he composed the music, which is interesting as he’s not trained in such matters but the score, while obviously owing a lot to Carpenter along with everything else on screen (his lifts from Halloween, a sort of tradition for this series, are more overt than ever), is one of the film’s/series’ best assets. The disc also opens on a reel of trailers for all of Mena’s films, including this one, which is amusing as I had managed to go five years without seeing a frame of it only to have some of it shown/somewhat spoiled right before I finally sat down, as I assumed it was a different movie at first because why would there be a trailer for it beforehand? But it seems he’s gotten the rights back to all of his films (the other two in this series and Brutal Massacre), which were released by Anchor Bay (RIP), so good for him. Considering the uphill battles he’s fought on this series (and how Brutal Massacre is essentially autobiographical) it’d be annoying if they got swallowed up in some merger and making money for execs who probably didn’t even know what they were.

Oh well. Again, I don’t think the film was ever going to measure up to the first two, but I was disappointed to see it fell short of those already lowered expectations. Like I said, it’s not unwatchable or anything, but it’s just so perfunctory – if it wasn’t part of an established franchise I don’t think anyone would have ever paid it any mind. There’s no real hook to any of it (he doesn’t even wear his creepy sack mask, or any mask at all), it’s not particularly well made, there’s no atmosphere… the generic subtitle turned out to be kind of a warning. I feel bad for Mena as I know he is capable of delivering when he’s got the resources to do so, and let's not forget that even the Fast & Furious team, with its blank check budget and CGI miracles, couldn’t completely fix their movie after their own actor was lost halfway through. But maybe he should have gone with his gut and just abandoned it, so we could just imagine a more fitting finale than what we ended up getting.

What say you?


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