Back in 2014, director Anthony DiBlasi’s Last Shift released and became a go to for me whenever I was feeling something truly scary. With more resources at hand, Anthony has returned for a remake of his own film entitled Malum, resulting in a bigger, badder, bloodier version of the chilling original.
Once again written by DiBlasi and Scott Poiley, Malum centers around rookie cop Jessica (Jessica Sula). In an effort to better understand her father’s mental break after a case involving a murderous cult, she volunteers to take the last shift at the newly decommissioned police station where he died. All alone, Jessica is about to discover that the ghosts of the past are still very much alive.
The first question you might ask when it comes to a director remaking their own film is, “was it necessary?”, and the answer here is…not really. But DiBlasi sure gives the original one hell of a facelift.
There are few major changes between both films, but two big ones come in the backstory and the noticeable difference in quality of the effects. Rather than begin on Jessica sitting outside the station in her car, we’re taken back one year ago to witness the bloody events which occurred at the place she’ll be watching over to add more depth to her character while getting gorehounds salivating. Last Shift had its fair share of nastiness, but DiBlasi lets the audience know that they’re in for an even bloodier affair with this violent prologue. Malum is locked and loaded with grisly gore and nightmarish imagery that takes this version to the next level of Hell. At the same time that I was cringing in my seat, my jaw hung aghast in terrified wonder. Malum has such sights to show you, and I’m now finding myself wanting DiBlasi to tackle a Hellraiser sequel at some point in his career.
By all accounts, Malum is a more aggressive approach than its predecessor…which is both a positive and a negative. The limitations of Last Shift were part of what made it so scary, as the film moves with a gradual pace that builds the horror while incorporating a less is more attitude. Malum, on the other hand, tosses audiences into the fire and never really lets up. On Jessica’s way to work, she witnesses raging streets which have become a battle ground between the police and the remnants of the deceased John Malum’s (Chaney Morrow) cult. Many of the scares from the original are redone here, but with a meaner twist. One such example are the eerie phone calls from a woman claiming to be on the run from “the flock of the low god” which are replaced by a female caller antagonizing Jessica with name-calling and death threats. Fans of the original may be disappointed in the fact that both familiarity and a lot less subtlety this time around lessens the creep factor, but newcomers unaware of what’s coming will find themselves on a shocking descent into the ninth circle of Hell.
What is new that should appeal to fans of Last Shift is a richer story that manages to sink into even darker territory. In Malum, we actually get to meet Jessica’s mother, Diane (Candice Coke), an alcoholic whom she refers to by name instead of “mom”. Various flashbacks—which occasionally interrupt the flow—provide a closer look at the malevolence of the cult, as well as John himself. There’s more of a mystery in this version, which allows the audience a deeper understanding of Jessica and her desperation to learn why her father did what he did, all through a magnetic performance by Sula. A largely one-woman show, Sula has to carry the brunt of Malum on her shoulders and makes it look easy. Her terror, her grief, her anger, all of it pulls us closer to this character while taking on the heavy theme of the stress which police officers face. Unfortunately, the aggressiveness of other elements carries over to the performances, as well. Aside from Sula, near every part is played to an extreme degree that either takes away from the creepiness or the emotional impact of the moment. It’s as if DiBlasi wants the film to feel more like Hell. For better or worse, he succeeds.
Despite some odd choices in direction, DiBlasi is equipped with almost ten extra years of experience under his belt and it shows in every technical aspect. Malum is darker in appearance. Moodier. A welcome reprieve from Last Shift’s generally dull lighting. Sean McDaniel’s cinematography creeps and crawls around the empty station, creating a weighty sense of dread. Wide-shots of Jessica as a silhouette in a cavernous darkness emphasize her isolation. Discomforting sound design transforms the station into a malevolent character in and of itself, while Outlast 2 composer Samuel Laflamme’s eerie score sends chills gnashing up and down the spine. More vicious in tone, DiBlasi’s remake un-holsters the terror and lets it run wild.
More of a fresh coat of paint than a new take on the premise, Malum doesn’t quite reach the qualification of a “necessary” remake (depending on your interpretation of that word), but I have no doubt fans of the original will be thrilled and chilled by what DiBlasi has done here. What Malum loses in subtle eeriness it more than makes up for with shocking gore, inspired imagery and an expansion on the sinister elements at play. As for newcomers? DiBlasi has shown that he’s still here and more than capable of terrifying an audience.
Malum brings hell to theaters on March 31st from Welcome Villain Films.
By Matt Konopka