November 13, 2018 Malicious (Movie Review)
Also known as The Curse, Malicious the Horror Thriller arrives on DVD in North America Tuesday, November 20, 2018 thanks to Vertical Entertainment. Also available on VOD platforms, if you want to check it out before clearing a space on your shelf, some may already have a space ready, depending on how eager you are for ghost stories.
Written and directed by Michael Winnick (Guns, Girls and Gambling 2012, Code of Honor 2016), the film is about a couple. Professor Adam Pearce (Josh Stewart: Interstellar 2014, Criminal Minds series) and his pregnant wife Lisa (Bojana Novakovic: Drag Me to Hell 2009, Edge of Darkness 2010) move into a new home in the country. They receive a gift that accidentally unleashes an evil spirit. It haunts both them and Lisa’s sister Becky (Melissa Bolona: The Year of Spectacular Men 2017, The Hurricane Heist 2018) with deadly intentions. Only Dr. Clark (Delroy Lindo: Malcolm X 1992, Get Shorty 1995), the professor of parapsychology at Adam’s university, can help. Can they stop the spirit? Or will it unleash its full horror upon them?
Whatever its full horror is, its lead-up is rather ho-hum. They are well done, looking crisp and clean, with a few neat tricks up its sleeve (like one involving a painting). However, it is not anything viewers would not have seen in any other film about a haunting. Some of 1980’s The Shining here, The Amityville Horror there (both 1979 and 2005). That and a scientific take on 1973’s The Exorcist, with Dr. Clark using Ghost Hunters-esque technology to find the spirit.
Speaking of which, Dr. Clark is probably the best performed character of the bunch. Lindo plays him as genial and appealing, as well as knowing. The film picks up when he is on-screen, even when he is just exchanging dialogue with Stewart’s Adam. Some might wish he was the main protagonist than just being the Van Helsing to the Pearce’s Harkers. Novakovic does fine as the traumatized Lisa. While Stewart starts well, then sounds more tired as he goes along. It could be a way of expressing exhaustion as the spirit takes hold, but he sounds bored. The more drained he sounds, the more drained the viewer may get.
Still, it would be worth it if the story was up to snuff, right? Well… it could be. The film tells a fair story behind its scares. It runs at a fair pace too, where it has its ramps and lulls but does not rush or drag too much. Plus, it has a mild twist in switching who the ultimate victim is from the ultimate perpetrator. Just that it still comes off as derivative. The film is a Shining Amityville with a different Torrance-Lutz getting enchanted.
The dialogue is merely okay too. It has the occasional duff line, though no golden ones either. There is a running mathematical theme over how 1+1=2, or potentially 3 or more. It starts off as a cutesy introduction to the Pearce’s and their baby-in-progress, before trying to make it sound menacing by the end. Making it the deadliest math lesson since 2008’s The Oxford Murders.
Overall, Malicious kind of meets in the middle. It has some good camerawork and sound, fair twists, and fine pacing. While also having a derivative story, stiff lines and some dry performances. The scares are not exactly original, nor terrifying, though they are not badly done either. Someone new to Horror could use it as a good place to dip their toe in the genre. Though if this review had not already mentioned Malicious’ forebears, they could find other classics to start with too. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 2.5 out of 5 stars.