Director – Eric Valette
Cast – Gérald Laroche, Philippe Laudenbach, Clovis Cornillac, Dimitri Rataud, Didier Bénureau, Félicia Massoni, Geoffrey Carey
Release Year – 2002
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Malfique is a film that immediately interested me thanks to its unique plot, as well as this being a French horror film. France has held its own as a legitimate country for dishing out great horror, and this flick’s fantasy element was what really turned me on about this plot. Well, after giving this a watch Malfique really did not turn out to be the film I expected to see, and while I did not enjoy it as much as I anticipated I would I still found enough positive elements so say this film is at least an OK watch.
We follow four inmates sharing one cell in an old penitentiary. Each of the inmates comes with their own set of unique crimes that got them there, Carrere used his company to commit fraud and was eventually betrayed by his wife, Marcus is a drag queen, Paquerette is a mentally disabled man who ate his 6 month old sister, and Lassalle is an intellectual who one morning decided to kill his wife in horrible fashion. One night they discover an old book hidden within one of the cell walls, and upon opening it learn it was written by a demonic Satanist who used black magic to escape the very cell they are in. The inmates, who have no near release dates from prison, decide to use the book to get themselves out of the cell and into the free land. This proves to be a bad move for the group as they not only have no idea what they are dealing with, but have opened a door to another world they should have no part in.
I was really stoked for this flick because I LOVED the idea that this would blend fantasy, horror, and the all important nowhere-to-run-scenario. The idea of these inmates being well…inmates mean they have only a tiny cell to move about, which means if any horror were to approach them there would not be much they could do but fight back, and I love that. The fantasy element interested me because to me the plot came off a bit Lovecraftian in that they discover an old book with strange incantations that would eventually open another dimension for them, which is a testament that to this very day H. P. Lovecraft still has an immense influence on the horror genre.
So how did I dig the story afterall? Well…in the end it was what really held Malefique back from being anything fantastic or worthwhile. We did get an OK fantasy element, and the atmosphere was prevalent thanks to this taking place in a prison, but in all honesty this film moved way too slow story wise to be anything special. Normally I was expecting that they would find the book towards the end of the first act, and use it during the second act, and suffer the consequences during the third act. Well…instead of that what we have is overly long and often useless development during both the first and second act, and then all of the “good stuff” occurs during the final third act. Yes, that is right, you pretty much wait a around an hour before anything really worthwhile goes on. I am always a fan of proper development, but for this film with what it set to do this “development” should have been complimented with engaging elements that keep the story interesting and bring on what we want to see at the proper time, and that just did not happen with this one. The plot idea is great, the characters were worthwhile and not useless, but in the end properly paced writing is what kept this from being a fantastic film.
Direction wise this flick is well-shot, which is common with these French horror films nowadays. Director Eric Valette made his feature film debut with this flick, and it seemed Hollywood producers found something special in him given he was awarded the directing job for the measly 2008 remake of Takashi Miike’s One Missed Call, which only had one great scene in it(the “air duct” scene). His visuals are great, and his sets are unique and provide a perfect atmosphere for us to envelop ourselves in, but in the end it is the storyline that really holds this film back. We get some great gore and kill scenes though, but unfortunately they were not enough to save this one. It really is a shame that we get a great directing job but the film suffers anyway due to a mediocre screenplay, but that is the case with Malefique.
Overall, this is a film that really showed a lot of promise with its plot and great direction, but in the end this proves to be a borderline-positive film that suffers due to a poorly written screenplay. Poor pacing and overly long development hold this film back, but this may be one that you may want to give a watch yourself and make your own conclusion.