Writer/Director Anthony DiBlasi returns to a horror story very familiar to him in 2023’s Malum. A re-imagining of his 2014 feature Last Shift, Malum follows rookie police officer JessicaLoren (Jessica Sula) on her first shift on duty, guarding a decommissioned police station on it’s final night of service. This is no ordinary precinct, however. Exactly year prior, Jessica‘s father and police Captain Will Loren (Eric Olson) arrested three members of the “Flock of the Low God” death cult, including leader John Malum (Chaney Morrow). Captain Loren rescued three girls as the cult was in the process of ritualistically murdering them and was hailed as a hero for it.
In a bizarre twist of fate, the captain snapped shortly thereafter, murdering multiple police officers in the station before taking his own life. Determined to learn the real story behind her father’s death, Jessica volunteers for the last shift at the precinct, hoping to discover the truth. She chose a rough night to do it. The cult didn’t forget the anniversary, and as a result, Jessica’s world devolves into a total hellscape where the lines of reality are blurred as evil relentlessly infiltrates the halls of the abandoned station.
“Malum delivers an unrelenting 92 minutes of horror.”
Malum is bound to play wildly different for the two types of audiences who will watch it – those who have seen Last Shift, and those who haven’t. Beginning with the newcomers to the scene, Malum delivers an unrelenting 92 minutes of horror. There’s aren’t many feel-good moments to be found here, if there are any at all, gifting us a truly refreshing return to nihilism in a genre that has trended towards wanting to make audiences cheer more than scream. DiBlasi and his returning crew from Last Shift master the use of a creepy environment once again, turning the abandoned police station into an atmospheric house of horrors.
Horror involving demonic cults tends to fall into the same trope traps over and over, something Malum thankfully manages to evade. We are spared much of the “preacher on the mound” dialogue, and there are no “demon birthing from a non-consenting victim” scenes to be had. All horror cults considered, The Flock of the Low God may be one of the scarier ones of the bunch. The brutality of its members and their wicked swag (white sacks with bloody symbols smeared on) really separate it from the more cartoonish cults we typically get.
Bonus points are in order for co-writer Scott Poiley throwing Satan and Last Shift‘s Payman in the recycling bin for a different demon choice. The latter I’m sure is in no part due to the existence of Hereditary. I’m not sure if Malum is a biblical demon or not, but the choice of a lesser or completely unknown deity parallels with the film’s lack of desire to spell out everything that’s happening in all-caps. We fear the unknown, and Malum, in the spirit of its predecessor, tells you just enough to follow along and leaves the rest ambiguous, a choice I appreciated. Gaps in the story that do need to be filled are done so via a combination of snuff films straight out of the Sinister playbook and old interrogation tapes.
The first two acts of Malum are closer to a shot-for-shot remake of Last Shift than it is to whole new vison. It will be inevitable for those who have seen Last Shift to compare and contrast the 2014 film with this new iteration as every minute unfolds. While the plot is nearly identical, sometimes right down to the dialogue and pacing, what makes each of them incredibly effective horror films differs wildly. Last Shift succeeded as a creepy-as-hell psychological slow burn terror that benefitted greatly from its low budget. Although a solid movie through and through, the escalation from a few objects moving about on their own to full blown hellish hallucinations is where the film really found its scary sweet spot.
“…trades in many of the effective psychological scares of its predecessor for a massive increase of gore…”
In contrast, Malum saves its best scares for the third act, where the film dives much deeper into The Flock of the Low God’s plan for Jessica and the exploration of the police precinct-turned 7th circle of hell. The remake trades in many of the effective psychological scares of its predecessor for a massive increase of gore and horrific imagery, most of which is unleashed in the final 20 minutes. While stopping short of reaching deleted Event Horizon footage levels, the trip through the station brought back memories of Steven Kostanski’s The Void(2016), a film I very much enjoyed.
The question that will be on every Last Shiftfan’s mind while watching Malum is clear – “does this remake really need to exist?” A mere 8 years after the original, I’m really not sure that it does. Yet at the same time, both are strong horror films that I enjoyed. Their plots are identical for the most part, but how they succeed in their scares are vastly different.
My assumption is Malum exists to deliver a more visually gratifying version of Last Shift to an audience that has never seen the original film, and that is where it will find the most success. And maybe the resources just weren’t there in 2014 to take Last Shift where DiBlasi wanted it to go. For the same filmmaker to get a second chance at his vision like this is not only incredibly unique, its pretty neat to see the results.
While maybe unnecessary, Malum is a fascinating experiment in filmmaking to watch unfold. DiBlasi proves again his skillset of creating unforgiving atmospheric horror and tense sequences. It might be tempting to simply forget about Last Shift in favor of this newer version, but I highly advocate leaving room in your horror collection for both.
“A fascinating experiment in filmmaking to watch unfold”
[Review] A Police Precinct’s Last Shift Becomes A Nightmarish Hellscape in Cult Horror MALUM
The remake trades in many of the effective psychological scares of its predecessor for a massive increase of gore and horrific imagery, most of which is unleashed in the final 20 minutes.It might be tempting to simply forget about Last Shift in favor of this newer version, but I highly advocate leaving room in your horror collection for both.
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