Malum 2023 film

Malum Film Review

Why I took it off the list: I’m a fan of thrillers set in police stations (i.e., both versions of Assault on Precinct 13) and horrors about police in jeopardy (like the excellent Turkish film Baskin or the underrated The Void).

So the trailer for Malum seriously piqued my interest. And, after recently being let down by another police station-set horror in Night of the Missing (2023), I was hoping for a decent stab at the sub-genre.

The trailer for Malum looked pretty promising, so I decided to give it a go. So, let’s dig in!

Note: I didn’t realize until after watching that Malum is a remake of Last Shift (2014) by the same writers/director. I haven’t seen that earlier film, so won’t be making any comparisons to it! I’ll just be reviewing Malum on its own merits.

Review of Malum (2023)

Malum starts with an ominous, satanic-sounding chant over brief opening credits. It then abruptly cuts to some found footage-style scenes of a cult engaging in some very satanic-looking rituals.

This film definitely isn’t subtle. This is further outlined by the use of a song with lyrics like ‘I’ve come to be saved’ when later introducing a character seeking redemption.

When the action moves to a police station and begins to fill out the backstory, it also becomes clear that the script is incredibly exposition-heavy and full of some truly groan-worthy dialogue.

However, things get interesting with an unexpected act of violence and a time jump to some months later. Once rookie cop protagonist Jessica gets to the station for its last shift, Malum fully kicks into gear.

A police precinct on the brink of closing down is a prime setting for a thriller. And it’s something this modest horror/thriller uses to its advantage.

There’s a built-in tension of seeing just how much shit can go down before the place closes its doors. And the sense of unease here is amplified by widespread, dangerous riots going on in the city outside.

Jessica Sula Makes for a Solid, Believable Lead

The actors have to struggle against some awkward dialogue throughout the film. Some of the supporting cast don’t fully succeed, coming down on the wrong side of hammy.

However, lead actress Jessica Sula gives a believable performance that keeps the film grounded amid the more outlandish twists.

There’s a creeping sense of dread that her character has been somehow lured into this situation, and she manages to transmit a palpable, growing feeling of isolation and paranoia.

She also successfully transmits her personal investment in the situation, which gets us fully on her side in wanting to unravel the sinister mystery.

Some Beautifully Shot, Startling Imagery

Malum is also handsomely shot and manages to generate a genuinely creepy atmosphere. The almost-abandoned station, with its white tiles and institutional green walls, is beautifully lit and feels like a character in itself.

There are some inventive uses of set-up and pay-off, such as a basketball that an officer uses to blow off steam coming back into play as an effective jump scare later on. And the surprise involvement of an actual pig.

It’s also full of shots that are homages to classic horror like Jacob’s Ladder and Carrie. As with the similarly-themed The Void, the love for the genre is obvious and on full display.

When the film cuts back to the (somewhat amateurish) found-footage stuff, it loses some of its potent atmosphere. But it makes up for it with a couple of moments of truly terrifying, uncanny Lynchian horror.

The excellent cinematography and production design work well in conveying the final acts’ almost literal descent into hell. And the creature design is commendable (someone should seriously consider this director for a Silent Hill project!).

Final score: 6/10

Malum (2023): Worth Watching?

Yes, Malum starts off a bit shaky but vastly improves and becomes more gripping and involving as it goes on.

It doesn’t break any new ground, but is ultimately a solid, atmospheric horror with a decent lead performance and some memorable images. It should ultimately satisfy horror fans whose expectations aren’t super high.

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