Dir. John Fallon (2023)
A wealthy family is taken hostage within their home by a mysterious stranger.
Home invasion horror is pretty common in the genre, playing off of the common fear of people invading the space that you believe to be the most safe. It's disturbing to imagine that someone could come and interrupt a happy home, somewhere that you have established as a sort of home base that is both protective and secure. It's an effective genre, whether you live in a McMansion or a tenement building, because everyone is at least a little afraid that there is someone out there waiting to do them harm.
Skeevy Governor William (Nick Baillie), his wife Lauren (Melissa Anschultz), and her daughter Erin (Alix Lane) have gone to a house on the lake for vacation. William is abusive and disgusting, bursting in on his daughter while she uses the bathroom and forcing his wife to have sex in the kitchen while Lauren is out on the lake. Shortly after their arrival, a man named Jesse's (Kevin Interdonato) truck breaks down in front of their house, and when they invite him into their home, it turns out he has some untowards motives up his sleeve. The broiling family drama comes to a head as Jesse drugs the family and takes them captive, intent on making the Governor pay for his crimes of the past.
The simple structure of the film, one used hundreds of times in other films, allows writer/director John Fallon to play in this sandbox with a disgusting "family man" and his captor. William is a terrible human being, and his fate, and what he goes through in the film, never feels undeserved. He is disgusting from the opening scenes of the film, someone who we instantly dislike and wish ill upon. His family, however, is genuinely sympathetic, and their inclusion in this sadistic game is the emotional driver within the film. The score of the film, minimalistic as it is, works well, allowing the film to come across as more realistic than it would have with a standard horror score. The disturbing nature of the film itself works perfectly for the type of film that Fallon has decided to make, and it goes a lot further than I expected it to.
The middle act of the film falls apart a little, becoming needlessly complicated and failing to contribute to the resolution of the film. The runtime is about an hour and a half, and probably about twenty minutes of the film didn't need to be included. I understand why the wanted to pad the runtime a little, but shortening it by that amount would have helped to tighten up the film and make it more enjoyable. It feels like a movie with a thin idea that was padded as much as it could be, though it never particularly loses the effectiveness of the "family in peril" premise despite its meandering.
While there's certainly nothing groundbreaking in the film, co-writer Kevin Interdonato does a fantastic job as the family's captor, and his role as the slightly deranged kidnapper is what drives the whole film. His relationship with Lane's Erin is an intriguing one, and it's probably where I would have resolved the film altogether. The twist, one that I was hoping for but didn't expect to see, is phenomenal, giving the film a punch that it desperately needed after it derails a little in the final act. The finale is also brutal as all hell, and it's quite satisfying to watch. All in all, it's a well-made indie film that delivers a unique twist on the home invasion thriller, and it's definitely one of the better indie films I've seen recently.
Who this movie is for: Home invasion movie lovers, Psychological horror fans,
Bottom line: Malicious doesn't completely live up to its name, and it shies away from some of the brutality it richly needs, but it's an excellent indie film regardless. It's an interesting take on the home invasion thriller, and it does a great job of maintaining the audience's interest. Writer/star Kevin Interdonato is fantastic, and writer/director John Fallon does a great job of creating a visually interesting film with just a few shortcomings. As far as indie films go, this was one of the better ones, and it's worth checking out. It's On Demand, including on Amazon Prime, in the US and the UK now.