Last Shift Reimagining Malum Is More of the Same – For Better and WorseMovies Reviews horror movies
The curious case of Anthony DiBlasi’s Malum is an exercise in remaking your own movie. Maybe “reimagining” is more apt? DiBlasi and co-writer Scott Poiley tweak the storytelling choices from 2014’s “original” Last Shift, which massages a reboot element to Malum’s benefit. But oddly, it’s no better or worse than Last Shift–just moderately different. Points are awarded for not being Travis Zariwny’s Cabin Fever remake, which literally reuses Eli Roth’s screenplay. However, there’s still an eerily underwhelming aftertaste about taking a second shot but not improving much of the overall production.
Jessica Sula prepares for blasphemous warfare as Jessica Loren, a rookie police officer in a rural locale who requests the overnight shift at a nearly abandoned precinct. Jessica’s reasoning is family related–she wants to work in the same building as her deceased father…before Will Loren (Eric Olson) snapped, killing multiple coworkers before ending his own life. Everything’s connected to cult leader John Malum (Chaney Morrow), Will’s relationship as John’s arresting officer and how a brave hero became an overnight disgrace after a few shotgun blasts. Jessica wants to prove herself, and she will–in the lonesome halls where ghosts of her father’s past still haunt the forsaken grounds.
Malum shines when the demonic revelations that overtake Jessica present themselves through gruesome indie effects. Whatever head-splattery digital nastiness exists supplements eye-popping kill sequences or creatures from beneath, like a mix of Tim Burton and Clive Barker. Josh and Sierra Russell of Russell FX summon Hell unto Earth with buckets of blood, which grants DiBlasi’s update a visually arresting edge over Last Shift. There’s a solid chance Malum features what will remain one of my favorite horror kills of the year, and that’s a testament to the quality of special effects often on display.
DiBlasi and Poiley emphasize John Malum’s cult followers–Clarke Wolfe as Dorothea, Morgan Lennon as Kitty and Danielle Coyne as Birdie–which grounds Jessica’s nightmare harder in reality. It’s both a feature and bug: The supernatural elements seep in via evidence footage that talks back to Jessica or visions of hanging victims inside holding cells, yet the boundary between real and hallucination is blurry. There’s a destabilizing nature to Malum that both works and doesn’t, hinging on Jessica’s psychological and physical descent as the overnight turns gnarlier by the second. A lot of dreamlike logic floats through a freakish onslaught of dependably scary imagery strung together by what fits a moment versus the fluid nature of a more captivating survival scenario.
Performances get the job done with what’s given, especially Sula’s leading role. The tenacity of her newbie shines through, even against ranking male officers who stumble through sexism and misogyny, with a bullish grace Sula levels against zany cultists and maniac specters that drip with haunted house ferocity. Sula is constantly outshining others in blue, but the vengeful cultists steady shakier presentations even beyond performance power. Edit transitions can be quickie-janky between scenes, and sometimes shots feel like empty space without atmosphere despite a dilapidated, multi-story police station. DiBlasi builds upon the narrative of Last Shift, but Malum isn’t a marked revamp outside its veers into demonic occult stances.
Still, DiBlasi delivers what Last Shift fans will once again enjoy. That’s what’s slightly disappointing: Malum differentiates, but does it differentiate enough? Monster designs by Russell FX whiff the fumes of Hellraiser without stealing from Hulu’s most recent franchise addition, standing out against other indie horror titles with less accomplished horrific craftsmanship. The spooky stuff gets the job done, and if you’re reading this review, that’s likely what you care about most. The rest is still as shaky as before, but what’s that matter when you primarily care about seeing what ungodly abominations John Malum’s “Low God” dares to unleash?
Director: Anthony DiBlasi
Writer: Anthony DiBlasi, Scott Poiley
Starring: Jessica Sula, Natalie Victoria, Candice Coke, Eric Olson, Chaney Morrow
Release Date: March 31, 2023
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.