Tuesday, January 15, 2019

In short: Malicious (2018)

Warning: I’ll have to spoil some of the film’s more interesting ideas!

Notorious city dwellers Lisa (Bojana Novakovic) and Adam Pierce (Josh Stewart) can’t help but move to the country, for Adam has been offered a position as a math professor at a rural college and the position is just too lucrative for someone as early in his academic career as Adam is to pass it up. Why, there’s even a huge house for the couple providing plenty of room for the child Lisa is pregnant with. Further developments will reveal Adam’s position is quite this well paid because many maths professors apparently can’t cope with the fact that their department head, Dr. Clark (Delroy Lindo), is also a parapsychologist (gasp).

That second field of interest will come in handy though, when the Pierces encounter some really rather nasty paranormal phenomena that seem to start at about the time Lisa opens a “fertility box” her wayward sister Becky (Melissa Bolona) has given her. Lisa miscarries under rather mysterious circumstances; whatever has caused the death of her child now seems to have latched onto her in the worst way.

Getting into the spoilers, the entity the Pierces have unwittingly invited into their lives is a thing that kills the unborn children of pregnant women to then take hold of the soul and the future of the child. So both of them have encounters with nasty versions of what would have been their daughter in various stages of development, like a suburban version of maiden, mother and crone. Though the film’s not clever enough to leave it at the traditional forms. Not being quite clever enough really is the problem of Michael Winnick’s movie for most of its running time.

While the basic idea of the film’s Big Bad is rather on the tasteless side, it is also very resonant, theoretically an ideal way to explore all the fears and horrors of young parenthood, as well as a path to giving the protagonists very mixed feelings towards the thing that haunts them. Unfortunately, the film never really goes anywhere interesting with its basic set-up, and seems to use the the four and a half versions of its monster just to provide visual variety, not to get deeper into the characters’ heads. There are some vague gestures towards a weird incestuous thing between the entity and Adam, but again, the film just doesn’t seem to know what to do with this either. Nor does it do much with the way Adam clearly tries to hide his lusting for Becky behind rather impressive amounts of rudeness towards her – there are a couple of moments that nearly go somewhere with this, but then it’ll turn out to be just an excuse to get a breast (or two) on screen.

If all this sounds as if Malicious perhaps sells its potential for psychologically incisive horror for trashy charm, that’s not the case either. Here, too, the film stops halfway, avoiding to become entertainingly crass as much as it avoids to have much depth.

Winnick’s professional but personality-free direction doesn’t do Malicious any favours either – it’s just a tepid film that is neither here nor there.

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