Netflix’s slate of middle-of-the-road supernatural thrillers is getting full. Lately, the streaming platform hasn’t shown much interest in horror. What’s been served up, by and large, has been pretty lukewarm fare. Writer and director Michael Winnick’s Malicious joins Mara, The Crucifixion, Dementia 13, and Gehenna, among others. With so many haunting’s, possessions, and paranormal investigations, can Malicious do enough to distinguish itself?
Math professor, Adam, and his pregnant wife, Lisa, start a new job at a small college with a new house. Shortly after arriving, they receive a gift from Lisa’s sister, Becky – a fertility box that can’t be opened. But when Lisa finally pries it open, mysterious things begin happening. She hears and sees things she can’t explain. When she suffers a miscarriage, visions of the child she lost haunt her. Fearing for his wife, Adam enlists a colleague – a paranormal researcher – to get to the bottom of the supernatural events enveloping his family.
Malicious Haunted By Familiarity and Genre Conventions
Nothing about Malicious is inherently bad. In fact, for its opening 15 minutes or so, Malicious promises to at least be a capable thriller. Winnick opens the movie with some beautiful camera work that embraces the Gothic sensibilities of Hammer Horror movies. Specifically, Winnick’s framing of the college campus house draws comparisons to classic haunted house movies. Overall, the production values are solid with a good cast rounding things out. The Collection’s Josh Stewart and the always reliable Delroy Lindo are certainly fine in their respective roles. Though she’s relatively unknown, Bojana Novakovic similarly gives a strong performance. But the weak story handcuffs the actors.
The screenplay is a hodgepodge of haunted house tropes and movie references.
Despite its workmanlike quality, Malicious fails to rise above its derivative narrative. The screenplay is a hodgepodge of haunted house tropes and movie references. Winnick drops everything from creepy kids and dolls to ominous disembodied warnings into the mix. As a result, the feeling of familiarity that runs through Malicious ranges from the general to the obvious. Malicious will remind even casual horror fans of The Amityville Horror and its legion of sequels, prequels, and remakes. Another scene shamelessly rips off The Shining. It’s a level of uninspired storytelling that borders on lazy.
Aggressive Scares Fall Flat
Malicious very much wants to be the next The Conjuring or Insidious. Similar to its storytelling approach, Winnick wears his influences on his sleeve. More than one jump scare will remind audiences of very similar moments from much better movies. That’s not to say that the movie doesn’t have its moments. A few of these scares hit their mark. But it’s more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’. More often than not, images that should be unnerving fail to elicit much of a response. It’s hard to be scared when you know what’s coming around the corner.
Malicious Doesn’t Stand Out From The Pack
In spite of its problems, Malicious is not an aggressively bad movie. As compared to some of more generic alternatives available on Netflix, Malicious actually does a few things well. Director Michael Winnick keeps his movie moving at a good pace – Malicious is never boring. Nevertheless, it’s a movie that can’t escape the feeling of ‘been here, done that’ with its references to much better horror movies.