Double Feature Review: Malum + Hunt Her Kill Her

  • Reviews

Screenbound Pictures exploded across UK theatrical markets this past weekend with a double-bill of American indie horror films packed with tension, ideas and verve. Though twin terrors Malum and Hunt Her Kill Her do share similar horror DNA (both feature lone female protagonists fending off forces of darkness and evil in a single, run-down location) there is a clear stand-out in terms of quality, direction and tone which almost damages the other by proximity to its black-hearted delights.

Film posters for Malum and Hunt Her Kill Her side-by-side with text that reads 'Double Feature'.

Remakes have never really gone out of vogue, but it is admittedly unusual to see a director remake his own work, especially when the original is held in a fairly high regard by its fans. But with Malum, director and writer Anthony DiBlasi takes another crack at his dark and twisted 2014 film Last Shift and emerges from the blood-drenched nightmare with a piece that is richer, darker and much more harrowing than his original.

We follow Jessica (Jessica Loren), a rookie Police Officer on her first shift on the force who has been tasked with monitoring a near empty police station that is being decommissioned the following day. The very same police station where her Police Captain father (Eric Olsen) had gone on a murderous rampage, killing his friends and colleagues with a shotgun only a year before in the aftermath of capture of a dangerous cult leader. As Jessica wonders the vacant halls of the station, a darkness shifts and shudders its way towards her intent on chaos, bloodshed and resolving some unfinished business.

A young woman in a police uniform has her face covered in blood. She is looking at something off camera with a concerned, yet calm look on her face. Still from Malum.

While that premise will have the audience asking more questions than you would like, Malum gives you no time to pick the peculiarities of the plot apart as it gives you an onslaught of unsettling horror, fascinating performances and more gore than a butcher’s bin.

Jessica Loren is terrific. Much of the film is carried by her performance, especially in the film’s comparatively sedate opening half hour, and she makes for a compelling, engaging and kick-ass final girl (can you be a final girl if you are technically an ‘only girl’?). As the film explores Jessica’s unique and peculiar history with the cult of the Low God, you feel every emotional beat as DiBlasi puts her through the wringer.

A woman wears a bloody cloth mask with 'The King of Hell' written on a wall in blood behind her. Still from Malum.

The film has a remarkable ability to cater to all horror fans with its slow build structure. The first half of the film is an exercise in tension and dread, as the camera lingers on the palpably empty corridors and the clanking noises in the dark. The film’s unintrusive score does a terrific, pulsing job of keeping the audience on edge and really adds to the nightmarish scenario unfolding.

There are one or two terrific jump scares in the film that keep the audience as on edge as Jessica herself, and found footage horror fans are catered to as well with some deeply unsettling videos found on a flash-drive. DiBlasi wisely allows us to settle into Jessica’s situation before throwing a hand grenade of horror and gore into the mix.

A young, naked woman with a bashed up fae crawls towards the camera with an awkward pose. Still from Malum.

As all hell begins to break loose, the line between reality and nightmare are neatly straddled as we are invited to question how much of what we are seeing is real or imagined. But as the Cult of the Low God make themselves known, we are treated to some of the most fun, inventive and unsettling practical effects I’ve seen this year. The sweaty, slimy, bag-headed demons make for some of the most interesting horror villains you’ll see and the final reveal of the Low-God himself is as audacious as it is ambitious. While I would argue in this case less would have been more, it is a wonderful win for practical effects over CGI that raised a smile and a grimace from me at the same time.

At times playing like a horror homage to Assault on Precinct 13, DiBlasi has crafted a terrifically dark and gruesome tale that blends all sorts of horror genre’s together to create a unique bloodbath that will test your nerves and drown your dreams in crimson.

Unfortunately, the second feature in our double bill is a film with a similar structure but none of the dark creativity that allows Malum to soar to such delicious heights.

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In Hunt Her Kill Her, Natalie Terrazzino plays Karen; a Janitor and single mother doing her best to make ends meet by starting a new over-night job in a furniture factory. When the factory is attacked by mysterious masked-assailants she finds herself fighting for her life and forced to take the fight to them to escape the factory with her life.

Truth be told, Hunt Her Kill Her is exactly the sort of film that you are imagining. A fairly straightforward idea that is played out in a disappointingly straightforward manner. The plot, such as it is, struggles to justify itself in any meaningful way and feels terribly stretched across its 90-minute runtime. At times you wonder if there is a running, subtle commentary on misogyny and violence but the film shows no real interest in engaging with that on anything other than a surface level.

A masked man standing tall and looking down. Still from Hunt Her Kill Her.

Directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen do their best to make their limited budget cover the action, but aside from some interesting visual flourishes the film is a victim of its own limitations.
Natalie Terazzino gives a good account of herself and throws everything into the central performance of Karen, but it is hard to wring much out of the limited script. Her transformation from victim to hunter is well played across the film’s runtime and she becomes admirably formidable by the film’s end.

As a double bill, the films work reasonably well together given their shared similarities but have the unfortunate side effect of exposing the limitations of what is admittedly a lesser work. I perhaps made the mistake of watching Malum first and given that film’s crazy energy it would have perhaps served Hunt Her Kill Her more to play first.

A woman lying on her back while a knife comes towards her face in between the wooden slats above her. Still from Hunt Her Kill Her.

As a women-kicking-ass-combo, Malum and Hunt Her Kill Her both have a lot to recommend them, and I can imagine both going over well with a fun cinema / festival crowd. But I can’t help but feel that it is the dark magic of Malum that will linger longer in my heart and have me returning to those blood drenched corridors time and time again.

The Double Feature will be screening at Quad Derby as part of their Fright Club on 18th May.
Malum + Hunt Her Kill Her will have a digital/physical home-entertainment release on 27th May.

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