Review: ‘Malum’ (2023), starring Jessica Sula, Eric Olson, Chaney Morrow and Candice Coke

April 6, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jessica Sula in “Malum” (Photo courtesy of Welcome Villain Films)

“Malum” (2023)

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional U.S. city of Lanford, the horror film “Malum” (a reimagining of the 2015 horror film “Last Shift”) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A rookie police officer with a tragic family background is assigned to be the only cop on duty during the last shift of a decommissioned police station that appears to be haunted. 

Culture Audience: “Malum” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “Last Shift” and horror movies about cults and prisons.

Jessica Sula in “Malum” (Photo courtesy of Welcome Villain Films)

“Malum” is not very original, it can get repetitive, and some of the acting is amateurish from the supporting cast members. However, the movie excels at some terrific horror visuals, and the lead performances carry the movie during its weaker moments. “Malum” is a slightly inferior reimagining of the horror movie “Last Shift,” which was released in 2015. The ending of “Malum” is much more predictable than “Last Shift,” but there are unique jump scares and story elements in “Malum” that are improvements from “Last Shift.”

“Malum” and “Last Shift” were both directed by Anthony DiBlasi and written by DiBlasi and Scott Poiley. Both movies have the same concept: a rookie female cop is working the last shift inside a decommissioned prison that is haunted. However, certain aspects of both movies are different from each other. In “Malum” (which takes place in the fictional U.S. city of Lanford), the rookie cop has the same name as the “Last Shift” rookie cop: Jessica Loren. In “Malum,” Jessica Loren is played by Jessica Sula.

“Last Shift” begins with a “found footage” scene of a Charles Manson-like cult murdering young women who have been kidnapped. Viewers later find out that this was a cult known as the Farm Cult, who lived on a remote farm. The cult’s leader was a sadistic maniac named John Malum (played by Chaney Morrow), who was arrested for the murders, along with several other members of the cult.

The police officer who led this group arrest of the Farm Cult was 52-year-old Captain Will Loren (played by Eric Olson), who is hailed as a local hero. But in the beginning of the movie, Will is shown at the Lanford Police Department committing a heinous crime: He murders two other police officers with a shotgun before using the same shotgun to committ suicide.

One year later, Will’s daughter Jessica is shown visiting Will’s grave. Someone shows up at the graveyard who is an unwelcome visitor to Jessica: her mother Diane (played by Candice Coke), who is very unhappy that Jessica has decided to become a police officer. Jessica and Diane have an argument over her career choice and other issues that have been going on longer than before Will died. Diane is an alcoholic, and Jessica (who calls Diane by her first name) blames Diane for Jessica’s unhappy childhood.

Jessica’s very first night shift job as a police officer is to work the very last shift at the decommissioned Lanford Police Department station. A new Lanford Police Department station has already been built and is open. It’s where almost all of the Lanford Police Department staff works. On this particular night, members of the Farm Cult who weren’t arrested have been wreaking havoc around the city, so members of the Lanford Police Department have been busy responding to the chaos.

Before Jessica begins her shift at the decommissioned police station, she gets a very hostile reaction from police officer Grip Cohen (played by Britt George), who is the only other cop in the station when she arrives to take over the work shift. Before he leaves for the night, Grip yells and curses at Jessica, in an attempt to intimidate her. He gets even angrier when he finds out that she is Will’s daughter. Grip asks Jessica what she’s doing working at this police department, and she says she just wants to work as a cop.

The rest of “Malum” shows Jessica having strange and terrifying encounters at the police station. She think she’s alone in the building. But is she really alone? And through it all, Jessica keeps getting harassing phone calls from women who seem to be members of the Farm Cult, because they keep using the Farm Cult’s names for a police officer: “pig” or “piggy.” Eventually, Jessica looks through her father’s former locker and finds something that helps solve some of the lingering mysteries that have haunted her and other people in Lanford.

One of the biggest questions that viewers ask whenever there’s a horror movie about a person or people getting attacked in a haunted place is: “Why don’t they just leave?” In “Malum,” the reason why Jessica stays is because she is determined to prove to people like Grip that she has what it takes to be a brave police officer. She also knows that several people want her to quit the police department, because of what her father did, and she does not want to give her naysayers the satisfaction of having her quit.

Jessica does not excuse the murders that her father committed, but she wholeheartedly believes that there could be a sinister explanation for why he did what he did, since he had no previous indications of ever being mentally ill or inclined to murder. The revelations in “Malum” aren’t too surprising. And the repetition of Jessica seeing terrifying visions and getting threatening phone calls can get a little tedious. However, Sula gives a very compelling performance that makes “Malum” an effective horror thriller for viewers who have the tolerance to see gruesome, blood-drenched scenes.

Welcome Villain Films released “Malum” in select U.S. cinemas on March 31, 2023. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on May 16, 2023.

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