Horror films centered around cults can be tough to watch — but all the more rewarding, especially for scary-movie fanatics. And speaking of — who remembers a little indie gem called Last Shift? The 2014 Manson-inspired “cult” film centered around a transitioning police officer assigned to wait for a Hazmat team to pick up bio-hazardous waste from the station’s armory. But unbeknownst to her, a cult leader has haunted the department ever since he and two of his followers died by suicide a year prior…
And now, enter Malum, which is out Friday and reimagines Last Shift, expanding the filmmakers’ vision of nightmare-inducing terror. On a search to uncover the mysterious circumstances of her father’s death, a newly appointed police officer, Jessica (Jessica Sula), is assigned to the last shift in a decommissioned police station where a notoriously vicious cult saw their demise years prior. The lone officer at the station at night, she soon finds herself barraged by terrifying paranormal events, and in the process, is taken on a journey during which she learns the shocking truth behind her family’s entanglement with a demented cult leader.
We recently caught up with filmmaker Anthony DiBlasi — who co-wrote and directed both Malum and Last Shift — and actress Jessica Sula. They discussed the creative process behind tackling horror and that gory, blood-soaked scene that viewers will quite possibly never forget. Read our exclusive interview below.
Expanding on Last Shift
MW: What inspired you to reimagine and expand on Last Shift?
Anthony DiBlasi: You know, I love that first movie, I was very happy with it. [Co-writer] Scott [Poiley] and I kind of did everything we sought out to do with [Last Shift]. And when Luke and I jumped on a call together, he was like, “What do you think about revisiting that world?” And I think he saw something inherently that I had always hoped for that first movie — I really made that movie for horror fans, and I wanted fans to see it in a theater because I knew it was kind of a crowd pleaser. But it didn’t go that route, it didn’t go theatrical, besides doing some festivals.
We did [Last Night] for such a low budget, that we had to leave a lot on the table. So it was very enticing to me, like, “OK, I don’t want to remake that movie […] but try to just make it a bigger, more immersive world for the audience, and bring more scares and more character development.”
MW: Jessica, I know you’ve been around the block with horror projects (Split, Scream, etc.). What was it about Malum that first drew you to the project?
Jessica Sula: Well, I was kind of nervous at first. I feel like I was kind of hesitant because I didn’t know if I could do it. A lot of it looked arduous, grueling at times, emotionally […] So I think at first I was kind of hesitant with the amount that the character had to go through, and to prepare for it and hoping that I can be dynamic.
I also hadn’t had a job in a while and I felt really rusty, and I didn’t know what I was really doing with my life. So I was a little tentative […] There’s a lot of space with acting, and it’s a weird marathon of things. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So I chatted with Anthony, and we really got along […] After chatting, I felt a little safer. And Anthony really loves nurturing a character and bringing it to light.
MW: Did any past filmmakers or films inspire how you wanted this movie and Last Shift to look or feel?
Anthony DiBlasi: For [Last Shift], there’s Assault on Precinct 13, that’s got to be one […] But with this one, there’s Sinister, which I love. Like, the mystery elements of Sinister, and the Evil Dead remake — it’s such good effects and gore, and just a heightened sense of reality, and was dark at times. And I think with Malum, I hope people get that kind of thrill ride, but also that kind of emotional journey with Jessica’s character, and that they can come away with it kind of feeling something besides just being scared.
Filming While ‘Covered in Blood’
MW: Would you be interested in a sequel to Malum, or even a spinoff film?
Anthony DiBlasi: I hope so. I mean, I think if audiences really respond to it well, I think we’ve set this one up in a way that we can tell a lot more stories with it and explore it even further […] We’ll see if we can afford the next one.
MW: Was there a particular scene that was either particularly challenging or fun to shoot?
Anthony DiBlasi: When Jessica gets kind of covered in blood? That day?
Jessica Sula: Oh yeah. That was a combo of “hard” and, I suppose, “interesting.” But at the same time, it was also really fun. Everyone was geared up to watch me […] That was the high point of my shooting career [laughs]… And then you realize that once you jumped that much blood on the set, everything else after that becomes really a pain in the ass […] But yeah, that was exciting.
From Welcome Villain Films, Malum opens in theaters today, March 31.