Gruesome gifts come in small packages in Malicious (2018), in which college professor Adam Pierce (Josh Stewart) and his pregnant wife, Lisa (Bojana Novakovic) move into a new house provided by the university to which Adam has been recently employed. When Lisa’s polarizing sister sends a mysterious and intricate box as a housewarming gift, the couple soon becomes entrenched in supernatural peril that can only be resolved through life-shattering decisions.

Although Malicious generally adheres to horror genre norms, the film also possesses a few standout elements that elevate its intrigue. Josh Stewart and Bojana Novakovic both give heartfelt and believable performances that allow the audience to grow attached to their characters and invest in their collective plight. Delroy Lindo also shines through his sophisticated yet emotionally-genuine portrayal of Dr. Clark. The movie’s visuals are dark and sleek, which adds to the tension that builds throughout the film. The plot is peppered with fun and well-executed nods to both popular and more obscure Stephen King works, and involves a clever and original twist that would have been even more thrilling if it had been expanded upon more fully.

The primary flaws in the film are its inconsistent scares and overall reliance on tropes. Through the beginning and early middle parts of the film, the scares have potential, but do not always successfully land; however, the late-middle and the end portions of the film serve up more compelling moments of fright. Despite the delicious twist in the plot, much of the film slides into stereotypical components of films within the haunted house/haunted item subgenre of horror, and allows a plot point or two to unravel without a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, Malicious is an entertaining horror film, despite its failure to truly realize its full potential.

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