Directed by Anthony DiBlasi.
Starring Jessica Sula, Candice Coke, Chaney Morrow, Clarke Wolfe, Morgan Lennon, Valerie Loo, Monroe Cline, Eric Olson, Sam Brooks, Kevin Wayne, Danielle Reverman, Natalie Victoria, Christopher Matthew Spencer, David Fultz, Britt George, Angel Ray, and Brooklyn Durs.
A rookie police officer willingly takes the last shift at a newly decommissioned police station in an attempt to uncover the mysterious connection between her father’s death and a vicious cult.
It’s one thing for a filmmaker to adapt their short film into a feature-length film and another entirely to remake a generally well-received movie with a supposedly new vision (not that it hasn’t been done before). Director Anthony DiBlasi’s Malum is a reimagining of 2014’s Last Shift (which he also co-wrote alongside Scott Poiley) and is once again centered on a rookie police officer investigating the death of her police officer father and its connection to a Manson-reminiscent cult (feeding their victims to pigs while worshiping a violent deity in ritualistic fashion).
Having not seen Last Shift and going off of its plot summary (although it does sound strikingly familiar, as if I did see it before and just never got around to reviewing it, which could also be due to the reality that there’s not much special going on in terms of story), it’s head-scratching as to why Anthony DiBlasi felt the need to create a do-over. He seems to have tweaked and homed in on the police officer aspect, sometimes bluntly going for social commentary about cops that eventually starts to pay off as Malum slaughters its way to its hallucinogenic freak-out gorefest finale.
It should also be noted that the geysers of blood, heads popping like fruit, dismemberment, and creature designs are mostly practical and disturbing to look at, as if their concepts were directly inspired by equally twisted fare soon in old-school survival horror video games that would punish a player and cause them to go through all the ammo at their disposal. There’s even a clichéd plot reveal scene in one of those games.
The empty police station in the process of being decommissioned also makes for a tense and atmospheric setting, and the filmmakers know how to present it as something expensive, isolating, and terrifying to wander around alone, especially when supernatural spookiness is occurring. Multiple colorful characters also show up that are some combination of belligerent, seeking safety, or familiar with the cult.
Perhaps it’s a given that Anthony DiBlasi would know what works regarding scare factor and mood since he is already succeeded here before. So it’s frustrating that the narrative is clumsily handled in this reimagining and once again contains the same tired plot twists. One doesn’t need to see Last Shift to understand where this is all going because it’s been done before. Admittedly, it’s effective, but only to a certain point considering Anthony DiBlasi has already made this film and doesn’t seem to have dramatically changed much.
Against the wishes of her mother, Jessica (Jessica Sula) chooses to become a police officer like her father was before his death and take the last shift at the previously mentioned station in the process of being decommissioned. Upon rescuing some women from the cult and receiving praise from his fellow officers, that station is where Jessica’s hero father turned into something else that she hopes to find answers about. That means there is the usual rummaging through laptops and notes routinely seen in horror films, which might have felt fresher almost ten years ago but has only become more clichéd with time.
Jessica Sula is game for this madness and excellently portrays the anxiety and terror of not knowing what is real. When Malum embraces blood and guts through monsters, demonic gods, and twisted sacrifices, it’s a devilish joy crusted with equally hellish care. Unfortunately, the story also comes across as janky, as excessively comical violence is used to further the plot rather than compelling writing.
For a while, it’s difficult to engage with Malum (especially since it’s questionable whether Anthony DiBiasi should have remade his own movie just to expand on a few ideas when a new story altogether would have been more appealing), but once the nightmare gets going, it’s a well-crafted horror show relentless in trippy gory chaos.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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