I am very excited to give you this interview with the awesome Stevan Mena, director of “Malevolence” and “Bereavement.” I am very excited that I was able to get in touch with him (thanks to James D. for that one). Seeing that I have been a fan of all 3 of his films so far (and hopefully dozens more of his films in the coming years), it was a no-brainer to ask this horror visionary for an interview. I was very surprised with a lot of the responses, and I think you will be too.
There was a long time in between “Malevolence” and “Bereavement”. What led to this length in between movies?
Like many first time filmmakers, we didn’t know what we were doing, and as often happens, very bad people took advantage of us, and we signed some awful deals that ended up tying up the rights to the film for a few years. So it was mostly legal wrangling and getting our rights back. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there that don’t care about anything but money and themselves.
Give us your synopsis of “Bereavement”.
Bereavement is about one man’s quest for redemption, and the young boy he kidnaps to help him. Unfortunately that man is a completely deranged psychopath, and he unwittingly kidnaps a child that has major issues of his own. Together they become a horrifically dangerous force of evil.
Is it true that the original movie was 3 hours long and then had to be cut down? Could you give us a breakdown of what was cut out and why?
During an interview, I exaggerated aboutÂ the length of the first cut, and it was printed out of context. It was not, it was about 2 hours 10 minutes, which was then trimmed down. All first cuts are long, what I said was taken out of context and the internet did the rest and there you go.
Will the DVD contain all of these bonus scenes? What bonuses will be added to the DVD?
There will be lots of bonus scenes, deleted scenes, and behind the scenes stuff on the dvd. Totally loaded.
How do you feel that the movie came out?
I’m very happy with the way the movie ended up. Especially Brett Rickaby’s performance. He kept that character grounded, and made Sutter very scary. The killer in Bereavement is not hidden in the shadows lurking like other horror films, so there’s always that danger that over exposure will lessen the scare factor. But in this case it was enhanced thanks to Rickaby’s “crazy” good performance.
What would you say was the most difficult part for you working on the film?
Definitely shooting the scenes with the most violence. I actually hate the sight of blood and gore (I’m very squeamish), and I get uncomfortable sometimes watching the horrific stuff I wrote play out in front of me. These are nightmares from the deepest part of my subconscious, so to see them come to life in vivid detail, with the screaming and the blood and all that is disturbing. But I knew this film needed to be honest with the violence, and I wanted that impact, so I didn’t pan the camera away, I forced everyone to experience it the way I did, and I think the result is kind of shocking to some people. The realism of the violence anyway.
“Bereavement” had a larger budget than your first two films, did that make it easier for you?
No, money never solves anything, just creates new problems. It’s different because you can now make that great sweeping jib shot you couldn’t before, but now that shot takes all day, and you’re wondering how much money you’re spending on this one shot, will it even make the film, blah blah, just more problems. All the same really. But it was great to be able to afford Name actors Like Michael Biehn and John Savage. That certainly was a big plus!
To me, the score of “Bereavement” is one of the standouts to the film. Did that come out like you hoped that it would?
No, that was a terrible struggle for me. I consider myself a musician, but not a composer really, and it’s hard to impart what’s in my head to others, so I end up doing it alone. But it takes me forever. So while I think the score works, I know it could have been light years better had I been able to explain what was in my head to someone who could arrange those ideas into a professional score. But I’m glad you liked it, a lot of hard work went into it, many long hours staring at blank paper, lots of erase marks.
Are you still looking to do a third part of the story?
Yes. The third part is going to be fun because we’ve spent all this time and effort through two movies setting up this character Martin as one of the worst, most evil mass murderers who ever lived, completely cold and insane and ruthless, who can’t even feel pain, and now he’s loose on the public. What’s THAT going to be like, Martin in your backyard…watching… Will be fun to do that one… 🙂
How would you prefer that your audience view the films (in which order)?
I think Bereavement first now. Because if you don’t know what’s inevitable (which of course you would if you saw Malevolence), then the surprises are much more effective in Bereavement with no prior knowledge.
You seem to be one of the few directors out there that can capture the magic of old slashers with an updated feel. Are you intentionally doing that?
Yes, that was always my intention, to bring back the old school horror feel, the same way Clint Eastwood brought back the old style Western feel that was perfected by John Wayne. The interesting thing is, what many “modern” horror films don’t get is less is more, it’s what you don’t see sometimes that scares you. Bereavement doesn’t really fall into the slasher category, it’s more like this horrific Greek Tragedy that plays out with more of a “I can’t believe that just happened” vibe than a boo jump out and scare you vibe, which was the way malevolence was constructed.
What is next for Stevan Mena?
That’s a good question. I have no idea. I should probably get a job, pay some bills.
What tips would you give aspiring filmmakers?
Go to law school after film school. Never trust anyone in this business (unless they are telling you something bad about your script. Then listen). Make movies people want to see. Never give up!!