Malum Reimagines Last Shift From a Different Point of View

Director Anthony DiBlasi and writer Scott Poiley of "Malum" reimagined their 2014 hit "Last Shift" from a different and more detailed perspective. 

Malum Reimagines Last Shift From a Different Point of View Cover

Director Anthony DiBlasi and writer Scott Poiley of “Malum” reimagined their 2014 hit “Last Shift” from a different point of view. This time, viewers plunge into Jessica’s madness right alongside her, without the safety net of reality periodically setting in. 

Director Anthony DiBlasi brought this original and very creepy idea in 2014 as the straight-to-streaming movie “Last Shift.” DiBlasi and his writing partner Scott Poiley reimagined the movie this year as “Malum,” a Latin word meaning “evil.” Malum is also the last name of John Malum, the leader of the cult.

Jessica Sula stars as Jessica Loren, a rookie cop on her first shift who is hoping to connect with her late father by working where he worked. Her fantastic performance shows her range as an actor as well as her ability to work while drenched in fake blood. Juliana Harkavy plays Jessica in the original.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the 2023 movie Malum, currently only in theaters, and “Last Shift” (2014), streaming on Tubi

MALUM - Official Trailer (2023)

Plot Overview

It’s a tale as old as time. Police officer dies while attempting to liberate a murderous cult, leaving behind a grieving wife and daughter. Daughter becomes a police officer herself to follow in Dad’s footsteps and on the one-year anniversary of her father’s death, finds herself working in the soon-to-be condemned police station where her father’s murderers died. Murder cult, a pseudo-Manson family, leaves their evil souls behind to torment whoever has the misfortune to cross their path.

Okay, so maybe it’s not your typical story.

Jessica finds a photo of her and her dad in his old locker.

Jessica finds a photo of her and her dad in his old locker.

As the story progresses, our heroin experiences increasingly terrifying incidents. It rapidly becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is a hallucination. Every time she thinks something is real it disappears, and when she’s sure she’s only seeing things, the weapon and killer are real.

“Last Shift” and “Malum” both end in bloody but unpredictable ways, but the role of the cult in various characters’ gruesome fates separate the ultimate theme of two movies. “Last Shift” gives us the point of view of the omniscient narrator. “Malum,” on the other hand, favors Jessica’s perspective over reality and is therefore more open to interpretation by the end.

Jessica examines the cult's bloody signature at the station shooting range.

Jessica examines the cult’s bloody signature at the station shooting range.

Why Reimagine Last Shift from a Different Perspective?

It seems unconventional to remake a horror movie when it’s not necessary for the audience. For example, Michael Haneke remaking “Funny Games” shot-for-shot except for the 1997 actors speaking German and the 2007 actors speaking English.

According to ScreenRant, DiBlasi had two very good reasons to remake his own movie in the same country and language. First, he felt showing it in theaters would be successful. Second, he wanted to see if a larger budget could improve the way they told the story. From this perspective, reimagining “Last Shift” from a different perspective, that of Jessica’s rapidly progressing insanity, seems almost necessary.

I went into “Malum” as a huge fan of “Last Shift.” I didn’t think it could be improved upon much and was confused about why they decided to reimagine the original instead of extending the story with a sequel. However, DiBlasi and Poiley did a wonderful job of sticking to their original story while enhancing the story with flashbacks, found footage, and disorienting the viewer until no one is sure what’s real and what’s only in Jessica’s head.

The stars of Last Shift and Malum side by side.

The stars of Last Shift and Malum side by side.

Consistencies: What Stayed the Same

The story and spirit of “Malum” reflects the roots of “Last Shift” in a way that is recognizable but not repetitive. “Malum” reimagines “Last Shift” from a disparate POV and feels like a completely different film. I love seeing different versions of my favorite stories so this is a huge mark in my pros column. Some parts of the script, like Jessica’s first conversation with her superior officer, Cohen, are directly lifted from “Last Shift.” This was a nice nod to the original film and felt grounding when the rest of the movie was so different.

The basic outline of John Malum’s cult also stays the same, although in “Last Shift” his name is John Michael Paymon and their group is called the Paymon Family. The cult still consists of mostly brainwashed women catering to “[their] master, [their] king,” John. Both movies heavily depend on the viewer having a picture of a cult—more specifically the Manson Family—in their head.

A member of John Malum's cult.

A member of John Malum’s cult.

I hoped that “Malum” would explain more about John’s philosophy and the specifics of the cult’s beliefs. Although we get a more complete picture of their compound and the way they live in the reimagining, we are no closer to understanding why John feels it necessary to confuse and abuse vulnerable women. Their style of dress is even reminiscent of the hippie stereotype associated with Manson’s group, making them feel outdated.

Because the other aspects of these films are so original and creative, this is an overlooked area. The cult’s involvement in the narrative has been expanded, so our understanding of them should be expanded, too. 

Shout Out to Natalie Victoria, AKA Marigold

In “Last Shift,” Jessica encounters a sex worker who is smoking outside the police station. The woman, Marigold, is the one who tells her about what really happened to the cult members who killed her father. Unlike “Malum,” this is the first time Jessica learns that the cult members were not killed at their compound as the media reported, but were brought back to the station holding cells where they hung themselves. Jessica is uneasy about Marigold’s presence, but Marigold is one of the only real things our heroin encounters that night.

Natalie Victoria as Marigold in

Natalie Victoria as Marigold in “Last Shift”

Natalie Victoria, director Anthony DiBlasi’s wife, reprises and expands her role as Marigold in “Malum.” In the 2023 edition she is pushed out of a moving car and onto the street in front of the police station. Jessica brings Marigold inside and starts to patch her up as Marigold tells the tale of John’s cult. After a few minutes in close proximity to the haunted holding cells, Marigold appears to see something that isn’t there and becomes paralyzed with fear. The high-pressure situation spooks Jessica, who kicks Marigold out of the station in fright.

Victoria’s performance in “Last Shift” was stellar, though short. It leaves the viewer wanting to know more about Marigold. In “Malum,” that’s exactly what we get! I really appreciated the expansion of the character. It made her more three-dimensional and allowed Victoria’s talent to shine.

Victoria and DiBlasi working on the set of

Victoria and DiBlasi working on the set of “Malum”

Differences: What They Changed or Improved

Aside from the above similarities and the main storyline, “Malum” almost felt like a completely different movie! “Last Shift” only shot in one location, while “Malum” shows us the scope of their city and several flashbacks to other places. Even the police station itself, where the majority takes place, is much larger than the original. This is undoubtedly due to the bigger budget and the expectation of showing the film in theaters.

We enter “Malum” knowing it is the one-year anniversary of John’s cult hanging themselves in their holding cell. Remaining members of the cult have descended on their city to celebrate and cause trouble. Their known presence is a convincing argument that Jessica isn’t hallucinating at all.

It is possible that the cult members would know about John’s obsession with returning Jessica and her mother to their fold and are trying to carry out their master’s final wish. The only solid confirmation that she is seeing things is when she shoots the corpse that has been chasing her only to realize she has killed the pig set loose in the police station. All the other horrors might actually be happening. 

A cult member in their mask.

A cult member in their mask.

The final third of the movie was the biggest deviation from the original. The uncertainty about what is real becomes much more prominent as dozens of cult members descend on the station to torture Jessica and wreak general havoc. “Last Shift” holds the viewer’s hand and guides us back to reality by revealing the intruders as a cleaning crew. We realize Jessica was hallucinating the whole time. It even continues with John and his girls closing in on her as she bleeds out from Cohen’s bullet. In the remake, we don’t get that luxury.

Character Differences

The 2023 edition explores Jessica’s relationship with her mother Diane (Candice Coke) more deeply than it’s 2014 counterpart. Diane is merely a cautionary but loving voice on the phone in “Last Shift,” but “Malum” paints a different picture. She is an alcoholic, her relationship with Jessica is strained, and her past is full of secrets. The biggest reveal of the movie is when Jessica finds a USB with footage of her mother as an active cult member. She smiles as John baptizes baby Jessica with his own blood.

One of Jessica’s breaking points in “Last Shift” is when she talks to friendly Officer Price for several minutes before he turns to leave, revealing the bullet wound in the back of his head and the fact that he died when her father did. “Malum” changes this character completely.  Officer Price isn’t the kindly ghost of her father’s partner, but a jerk who shows up with a partner of his own. Their purpose appears to be only to torment the already-terrified Jessica.

Matt Doman as the friendly ghost of Officer Price in

Matt Doman as the friendly ghost of Officer Price in “Last Shift”

We’re not completely sure if Price and his partner are living cult members impersonating cops, ghosts of actual cops who have turned to the dark side, or living police officers who carry enough resentment toward Jessica’s father to take it out on her. In this instance, reimagining Last Shift’s original character from this uncertain perspective made the presence of the character more confusing. 

We Need to Discuss the Temple Baron

The climax of “Malum” gives us something “Last Shift” didn’t even attempt. For the first time, we got to see the demon the cult worships.

He’s called the Temple Baron. His gait is similar to Pinhead from “Hellraiser” or Frankenstein’s monster. He stands at least a head taller than everyone around him. He quietly approaches Jessica as the crowd of awed cult members on the station’s basketball court parts, revealing a face with skin stretched into five points to form a pentagram. If you’re having trouble visualizing what he looks like, here’s a poster drawn by artist Gary Pullin. You can find more info about the flyer at Bloody Disgusting.

Temple Baron, drawn by artist Gary Pullin.

Malum’s Temple Baron, drawn by artist Gary Pullin.

The association my brain immediately made was Lady Cassandra from Doctor Who. If you’re not familiar, she is the last “pure” human in the universe. After thousands of years, her remaining body is a brain in a jar and skin stretched on a rack. I kept waiting for the Temple Baron to screech, “Moisturize me!”

Lady Cassandra O'Brien, a character on

Lady Cassandra O’Brien, a character on “Doctor Who.”

It was exciting to finally see a physical embodiment of the object of the cult’s affection, but his appearance turned out to be more comical than scary. Although I usually want to see every monster up close, this particular demon is better left to the viewer’s imagination. This is one of the few examples in “Malum” should have retained from “Last Shift” as opposed to reimagining. Instead of showing him, I would have preferred to know why the cult worships him along with John.

Overall: DiBlasi’s Remake Definitely Worked

I am so glad that DiBlasi and Poiley decided to reimagine their already wonderful thriller this year. The creators were able to realize their original vision that they only partially accomplished in “Last Shift.” The result feels like two sides of the same story. “Last Shift” brings us back to reality by the end, and “Malum” stays firmly rooted in Jessica’s tortured mindset until the last second.

The world of these films is so well-rounded that it helps the viewer suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves. I can’t wait to see what delightfully gory stories the writer and director come up with next!

Jessica on the phone with a prank caller.

Jessica on the phone with a prank caller.

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