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Malum (2023) Review

Malum is, according to its press release, “a bold and expanded reimagining of the 2014 horror cult classic, Last Shift”. Now, some may simply take that as a fancy way of saying it’s a remake of a film that’s less than ten years old. But there’s a difference between this and your average remake, it’s the work of the original director Anthony DiBlasi (Dread, Extremity) and his co-writer Scott Poiley (Exhume, Cassadaga).

I considered revisiting Last Shift before watching Malum because while I remembered the basic plot and that I really liked the first hour then being let down by the final act, I didn’t recall a lot of the details. But, in part due to how knowing what to expect spoiled the impact of another recent reimagining, Irreversible: Straight Cut, I decided not to.

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Officer Will Loren (Eric Olson, Drive, Red Red Rose) saved three girls from a murderous cult. Then shortly after he went on a rampage, shooting up the station before taking his own life. Now his daughter Jessica (Jessica Sula, Scream: The TV Series, Split) is about to work her first shift as a cop. And she’ll be alone, the last shift in the now decommissioned station where her father’s life ended.

Even before she reaches the station, her day is going badly. A stop at her father’s grave turns into a confrontation with her estranged mother (Candice Coke, La La Land, Once Upon a Time in Venice). Then she has a run-in with cult members on her way to the station and a hostile reception from the officer she relieves, that’s when things start to get really strange. Jessica took this shift to learn more about her father, but she’s going to find out a lot more than she wants to know.

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Malum’s first hour is fast-paced and delivers several good jumps wrapped up in a mix of increasingly strange sights and sounds. A street person (Kevin Wayne, Castle Falls, The Devil Below) looking for his daughter and an unhinged hooker named Marigold, played by Natalie Victoria (The Day of the Living Dead, Chemical Peel) reprising her role from the original, get things rolling. But it’s the information on a jump drive found in her father’s locker that really sends Jessica down the rabbit hole.

Credit cinematographer Sean McDaniel (Bullitt County, Dons of Disco), production designer Nicole Balzarini (Last Shift, Most Likely to Die), and art director Kyle Michael Wilson (Last Shift, Day 13) for turning an actual abandoned prison into a great backdrop for DiBlasi and the film’s actions. 

Dark and atmospheric, it’s the perfect place for any kind of threat you could imagine to spring out from and the film makes good use of this as Jessica frequently has to run from one end of the building to the other. Combined with the increasingly disturbing footage of the cult’s leader John (Chaney Morrow, Haunt, Wrong Turn) and some of the other members on the drive, by the hour mark Malum has built up a load of tension.

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In the opposite of Last Shift’s progression, the final act of Malum is actually the film’s best part. Granted, even if you haven’t seen Last Shift you’ll be able to guess the film’s big revelation The film’s relentless pace and Trevor Thompson’s (Devil’s Revenge, Mom and Dad) unsettling gore and disturbing-looking creatures, including Malum himself, more than make up for it.

Whether you want to call it a remake or reimagining, DiBlasi and Poiley have succeeded in their goal. Malum is a better, more consistent, film than the original and should win over new viewers as well as those who had issues with Final Shift. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of The Low God and his followers.

Welcome Villain Films will release Malum in select theatres on March 31st. You can check their website or Facebook page for more information. If you aren’t scared enough yet, FilmTagger can suggest some further frightful viewing.

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