CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
The Grindhouse style has proved surprisingly difficult to distil. The films that have tried to emulate or celebrate this elusive aesthetic have mostly missed the mark, none more wildly than the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse projects: Death Proof was far too long and talky, Planet Terror was too slick and expensive. Meanwhile Machete had too many big name stars in it, and the less said about the wretched and obnoxious Hobo With A Shotgun the better. Mostly they've had far too much money spent on them to look or feel like tatty exploitation flicks (except Hobo which I believe was done cheaply). Proper Grindhouse movies should be short, grim, nasty and full of actors you've never heard of.
Malevolence actually has a decent stab at evoking the grindhouse and precert VHS era: it's dark (literally: most of the movie takes place at night), unstylish and downbeat. Following a badly botched bank robbery, the survivors are supposed to meet up at a remote house to split the loot. What none of them realise is that the long-abandoned slaughterhouse next door is the home of a sadistic serial killer who's been murdering people in there for years. As the three surviving crooks arrive (along with their hostages), the maniac begins stalking them and dragging them off to his abattoir lair.... But who is he? And why is he?
It would be stretching things to suggest that Malevolence is even a halfway worthwhile exploitation movie, but pleasingly it looks and feels very much like a grubby 70s drive-in obscurity that we saw on tape at the dawn of the video era (it's actually set in 1999, which still does away with satnavs and mobile phones) and it has a genuinely bleak, downbeat tone to it. Chunks of it are heavily reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as various slashers (writer-director-editor-producer-actor Stevan Mena also composed the score which emulates Chainsaw's distorted clangings as well as Carpenteresque synth stings) although it frankly isn't in the same league. But once again, the characters are all pretty unlikeable, and stupid as well, so it's hard to care when the masked killer starts knifing them.
Malevolence isn't very good but it's mildly watchable for its old-fashioned look and feel - a bit like Frederick Friedel without the sex - but sadly not much more. Incredibly, this lo-fi cheapie has spawned a prequel, Bereavement, which has proper name actors in it (John Savage, Michael Biehn) but doesn't appear to have any kind of UK release.