Browsing through Malicious’s IMDb profile, I was struck by its one and only trivia entry:
This was Felix Cramer’s first feature film filmed in America. Now, who is Felix Cramer? A quick look at his credits reveals him being a German D.P., with a handful of movies to his name. This suggests to me that the trivia was either added by Mr. Cramer himself, or possibly a family member. And you know what? Good for you, Mr. Cramer!
There isn’t much to be overly excited about in Malicious, but objectively, the cinematography is of high quality. The movie itself is less than outstanding, though it is relatively effective at producing a handful of scares.
We follow Lisa and Adam, a seemingly happy couple, awaiting their first child as they’re moving into a new home. Here is – if you can set some genuinely dreadful dialogue aside – the movie’s first major misstep. If you’re making a haunted anything film and the majority of the story takes place in a house, it needs to be at least somewhat ominous. A suburban McMansion rarely works, Poltergeist being an honorable exception.
At any rate: Lisa meets a creepy lady in the woods near her house, who blabbers something about the baby. That night, Lisa has a miscarriage. A pretty bleak premise, particularly when the unborn starts haunting the house in various forms.
With that subject matter, I would hope Malicious’s tagline, Children are a gift from hell, is something a hapless marketer came up with having no idea what the movie’s premise is.
It’s made clear early on that the McMansion itself isn’t haunted, and that its apparitions are the effect of an opened spirit-prison box. Still, as the hauntings exclusively occur in the house, Malicious is firmly footed in the haunted house sub-genre, and the tropes are out in force. Mirror images taking on a life of their own; the spirit of a young girl turning into an old lady; footsteps from empty rooms. They’re all there, as is my personal favorite, the painting that changes as things go haywire.1
Yet, it is all executed very well, in no small part due to Mr. Cramer. There are some reveals and a pinch of flourishes with every jump-scare that elevates Malicious to something more than an average run-of-the-mill horror movie. The dialogue might be downright odd, and it gives the actors little to work with, but the way the film is framed is enough to make it interesting.
Malicious isn’t a home-run, then, but still worth the price of admission.2
1 Seriously, no flippancy intended. I love that stuff.
2 Free with Amazon Prime.