Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(French with English subtitles)
Directed by: Eric Valette
Written by: Alexandre Charlot & Franck Magnier
Starring: Gerald Laroche, Philippe Laudenbach, Clovis Cornillac, Dimitri Rataud & Geoffrey Carey
In this age of nearly every French horror film receiving some sort of recognition, it seems odd that MALEFIQUE is relatively unknown and damn near impossible to track down in the States. MALEFIQUE is not part of the extreme French horror movement. There are a handful of gory moments, but it’s more a film that relies on more subtle taste and Lovecraftian storytelling. Right off the bat, that sounds very promising and the idea behind this film is a creative one. For a relatively low-budget flick, MALEFIQUE gets a number of things right. Unfortunately, it fumbles most of the story in a script that feels like its being made up as the film goes along.
Carrere is a white-collar criminal thrown into a foreboding prison cell with three colorful inmates. His new roommates include: Lassalle (a mysterious, educated old man), Paquerette (a mentally handicapped lunatic who eats anything in sight), and Marcus (a pre-op transsexual). Carrere is convinced that his wife will bail him out of prison, but the days grow long and that’s looking unlikely. In a twist of fate, the cell mates discover a mysterious book behind a brick in their wall. Filled with ancient symbols and weird spells, the group try to use the pages of the book to escape from the prison. They fiddle with the magic book and their ingenious plan to find an escape spell doesn’t quite go as planned.
MALEFIQUE does a good job in setting up its characters and the one-room setting of the film. The dank cell becomes the only location the viewer sees for the running time, but strange things happen within its walls. The Lovecraftian angle is very intriguing and a few cool effects show off just how creepy this movie can be (a body twisted like a pretzel is a highlight, so is another man being granted his wish at an intensely cruel cost). The biggest problem with MALEFIQUE is that it drags its feet at every turn. This movie may have been slightly bettered if the running time had been cut down significantly. Even still, the unfocused pacing feels like there was a solid idea here for an excellent short film or an anthology segment, but there’s not enough material put into this premise to make a satisfying feature. Cool moments are sprinkled here and there. Some of these are also deterred by effects that cool in spurts, but remain silly.
It feels like a mish-mash of ideas were placed inside the script of MALEFIQUE, much like the pages of the magical book used by the inmates. Iffy effects and very slow pacing which doesn’t pay off in spades, take the quality down significantly. The biggest problem is that the writing itself just isn’t very good. This is especially clear in a what could have been a really dark Twilight Zone type of conclusion that just isn’t developed enough to be as nightmarish as the film wants it to be. MALEFIQUE is a disappointing mess with a few good ideas behind it. This is a short review, because there isn’t a whole lot to this film. Just skip it, unless you must check it out no matter what. If so, don’t say I didn’t issue caution beforehand.