Director/Screenplay – Michael Winnick, Producers – Brett Forbes & Patrick Rizzotti, Photography – Felix Cramer, Music – Jeff Cardoni, Visual Effects – Unseen FX (Supervisor – Richard Tintelnot), Makeup Effects – Beki Ingram, Production Design – Amber Unkle. Production Company – Fortress Features/Impossible Dream Entertainment.
Josh Stewart (Adam Pierce), Bojana Novakovic (Lisa Pierce), Delroy Lindo (Dr Ron Clark), Melissa Bolona (Becky), Ben Vandermey (David), Yvette Yates (Emily Harper), Luke Edwards (James Harper), Jacqueline Fleming (Dr Lee)
Adam Pierce takes a job as a mathematics lecturer at a rural university. He and his pregnant wife Lisa move into a home provided by the university. They arrive to find that Lisa’s sister has sent her a fertility box as housewarming gift. Not long after opening the box, Lisa begins to have visions and then collapses and has a miscarriage. Afterwards, she becomes certain that her child has been replaced by a malevolent spirit.
Malicious was the sixth film from Michael Winnick. Winnick had previously made the doppelganger film Deuces/The Duplicate (2001), the interestingly strange mind-bending horror film Shadow Puppets (2007), the gonzo Guns, Girls and Gambling (2012), The Better Half (2015) about a woman who becomes two personalities and the Steven Seagal action film Code of Honor (2016).
I thought that Michael Winnick’s earlier Shadow Puppets, though not a standout film, had promise and looked forward to what else he would do. Here he clearly has the been afforded a better budget, which is evident in terms of being able to obtain more slick and polished photography and a better-known cast. Unfortunately, Malicious slips into the routine. The build-up is incredibly banal and nondescript. There is nothing that lets you feel that the characters have any depth or roundedness. Josh Stewart seems miscast – he’s an actor who seems best cast as an ordinary working stiff but you strain to see him display any intellectual acuity when he is cast as a mathematics professor here.
All of the scares and attempts to build atmosphere are tepid and predictable – sinister children’s toys, a malevolent box that keeps returning even when thrown out in the trash, visions of a demonic figure seen in the child’s crib, seductive strangers, the appearance of the dead woman to warn Bojana Novakovic. Winnick even borrows the classic jumpshock from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) where Josh Stewart gets into the shower and is kissed by a beautiful woman who then turns into an old hag.
Even the title Malicious seems to be one that has set out to emulate Insidious (2010) in taking an evil-sounding adjective as title. Indeed, Malicious joins a host of other copycat sinister adjective titles that have come out in the last few years including Sinister (2012), Pernicious (2014), Demonic (2015), The Diabolical (2015), Luciferous (2015), Ominous (2015) and Satanic (2016).
It is also not clear what is going on even at the end. Something to do with the fertility box and the appearance of Yvette Yates causing Bojana Novakovic to miscarry. However, after Bojana has miscarried there is still a malevolent spirit lurking about and it is said that the spirit has taken the place of her baby. Quite what this means is a mystery as one had the impression that a miscarriage means that the child a woman is pregnant with has died (where it would usually be removed by her gynaecologist rather than left inside her body). Nor is it quite clear why there are at least four different women appearing at various times.
To the film’s credit, Michael Winnick does get a couple of good jumps off in the latter half of the film during the seance where a voice whispers “Lisa Jr” before the lights go out or when a face abruptly appears behind Delroy Lindo, as well as the eerie scene where the blind Lindo finds he can now see and that the ghosts are all seated around the table. Beyond that, the show slips into the eminently forgettable.