Malum/Hunt Her, Kill Her review – double bill of low-budget, single-location horror

Estimated read time 3 min read

New horror-focused studio Welcome Villain are aiming to be the next Blumhouse, but judging by this double bill of early releases it could be a long road. Both aim to maximise low-budget returns by restricting themselves to a single location – an approach that worked very well recently for filling station ordeal Night of the Hunted, not to mention of course the apex of horror, The Shining. But in truth neither of these makes strong use of its chosen locale, and both are tired, borderline exhausted deployments of the audience-prodding, jump-scare bag of tricks.

Malum (★★☆☆☆), by director Anthony DiBlasi, at least gives its backstory a bit of welly. A reworking of his 2014 film Last Shift, it sees rookie police officer Jessica (Jessica Sula) choose to work a solo shift at the old precinct where her father went postal and gunned down a pair of colleagues. Disorder is breaking out all over town with acolytes of a satanic cult frothing over the imminent return of John Malum (Chaney Morrow), who died in the station in mysterious circumstances after her father dismantled his kidnapping ring.

As Jessica tiptoes around the building, ill-advisedly admitting raving hobos and ravenous pigs, and starting to witness saw-toothed apparitions, the film takes place in a garishly lit purgatory between reality and the realm of – in Malum’s terminology – “the lower god”. DiBlasi, though, doesn’t have much sense of how to parse this hackneyed occult screed into sequences with any true tension, instead he just has this stricken cop bounce headlessly around between corridors and cells. It coheres a little better later on, with events taking place purely on the symbolic plane, when bad acting blends into the grotesquerie, and some flamboyant practical effects can take centre-stage.

Malum looks like Last Year at Marienbad next to Hunt Her, Kill Her (★☆☆☆☆), which traps janitor and single mother Karen (Natalie Terrazzino) at night in a furniture factory with a gang of insectoid masked raiders. In these limited space endeavours, what is lost in scope must be magnified in topography and intensity. But directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen’s cat-and-mouse outing is not only head-bangingly repetitive and unimaginative in its use of the surroundings, but also unremittingly grim. An (implausible) impaling by sink plunger is the only crumb of comic relief.

Two-thirds of the film is Karen sprinting around a labyrinth of machinery and crates, with the invaders somehow unable to outrun her or to check the obvious hiding spot. Characterisation is apparently verboten until the final 20 minutes, and most dialogue is a variant on: “Just wait till I get hold of you, bitch.” (Who needs Noël Coward?) If you were feeling kind, you might see this stark setup as some kind of comment on modern misogyny, but it plays out with about as much subtext as an FPS video game (and is less fun to watch). “Think! Think!” the under siege Terrazzino (the only person who emerges with any credit) is forced to say at one point. If only the film-makers had.


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