Director/co-writer/editor Anthony DiBlasi, a protege of Clive Barker, has mashed together two classic John Carpenter movies, “Assault on Precinct 13” and “Prince of Darkness,” added a burbling, “Satan is coming, try to look busy” synth score (by Samuel Laflamme, what a name) and then stirred in a lot of contemporary stylistic tics, including flash-cut gore with dissonant sound effects, and an extended action sequence in a darkly lit series of corridors that often adopts the rear-view, over-the-shoulder angle of a “shooter” video game.
The final third is, in terms of story, the least impressive section—it becomes increasingly narratively incoherent and chop-chop in the editing—but it’s also the most virtuosic in terms of compositions, camera movement, and physical acting. After a certain point, nothing in it scared me anymore because I was too enraptured by how much the filmmakers and actors were able to do with one location, lurid borderline-giallo cinematography (by Sean McDaniel, a name to watch), Laflamme’s music, and a smart use of whatever effects budget they had (most of it seems to have gone into the demon, and if so, great accounting decision: it’s magnificent).
If you care about indie horror trivia, here’s a fun bit: “Malum” is a remake of an earlier DiBlasi film, 2014’s “Last Shift,” which has the same basic plot—a rookie policewoman guards an abandoned police station, a year after an incident that entangled police officers with demonic cultists. DiBlasi and co-producer/co-writer Scott Poiley decided to do it again with more money and make it different. The main story change is having the heroine volunteer for duty at the station where her father died in order to gain access to his locker, check out the facility, and otherwise try to get answers to questions that are keeping her up at night; well, that and probably 200 times more overt supernatural stuff. The main style change is, er, everything. It’s a matter of energy, density, pacing, and scale, and this is even reflected in the music: the first one was defined by an acoustic guitar, while the second is wall-of-sound synth beats and chords that might liquefy your most recent meal if the speakers were loud enough.