Capturing a story using an artistic approach is no easy feat. This takes great skill and attention to detail with a boldness that could lose your audience in a heartbeat. One director who has been known for successfully using this technique is Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Mother!). Following a very similar pattern with strategic cinematic techniques and an outstanding score, British director and writer Jack James strikes at the heart of grief and despair with his debut psychological horror feature Malady.
After the loss of her mother, Holly (Roxy Bugler: Seizure) seeks to fulfill the dying wishes of her loved one by finding love herself. In the midst of grief and despair, Holly meets Matthew (Kemal Yildirim: Psychopaths, The Turning) and finds comfort in his company while hiding from the world outside. However, this new relationship is short lived when they receive a phone call from Matthew’s dying mother, Lorelai (Jill Connick: Parallel Lines). What unravels is the test of a love that has been built on shameful guilt and secrets.
Earning 11 nominations and 5 awards with an IMDb score of 9 out of 10 stars, Malady successfully draws your attention, leading you through this storied grief with surprisingly little dialogue. Relying on creative cinematic techniques, gorgeous camera work and a terrific score, the film captures a certain sense of rawness without losing its focus, all the while maintaining artistic substance. James’ attention to detail, while not overly complex, reflects a great deal of simple meaning and everything seems to have a purpose. A good example is the feature’s title, which means a disease or ailment. This perfectly reflects much of the film’s theme in a cryptic and clever way.
Although James’ incredible attention to detail is a driving force behind Malady, the film would not be what it is without the outstanding lead performances. Yildirim and Bugler bring their roles to life with a chemistry that portrays a relationship that is based off despair and loneliness rather than genuine love. Enhancing a sense of tension already found in the film, Connick is incredible in her role of a dying woman filled with hate and resentment. Lashing out with unapologetic remarks and a cold-hearted story about the family dog, she brings an element of horror that perfectly fits the film’s dark, underlying tone.
While gore hounds will be sorely disappointed, Malady is a must see for fans of artistic horrors that are mixed with drama and mystery. Having accomplished a film with substance and meaning in his debut feature, James is undoubtedly an emerging talent in the independent film scene. Initially released on DVD and Digital on July 11, 2017, this highly recommended feature is currently available on VOD.