Friday 10 September 2021

Malignant (Movie Review)

As we once again approach Halloween, you can expect the various Hollywood studios to start serving up the horror goods. And Warner Bros. is one of the first ones to jump into the fray with Malignant, a supernatural horror film that is receiving a simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max this weekend. Directed by James Wan of Saw and The Conjuring fame, the film finds the acclaimed horror director taking time away from those other franchises to conjure up something new and unsettling.

In Malignant, a young woman named Madison finds herself inexplicably connected to a serial killer through visions of his grisly murders. And as the killer grows increasingly malignant, she gets embroiled in an investigation to catch him before he claims his next victim. But in order to get to the bottom of the mystery, she'll need to search deep within herself and channel the suppressed horrors of her troubled childhood.

Let me just start off by admitting that I was a little bit torn coming out of Malignant. On the one hand, I understand what James Wan was trying to accomplish with its throwback horror feel and the cheesy dialogue to go with it. On the other hand, I was almost put to sleep by the predictability of its build up and its lack of quality scares for most of its runtime, which is generally why you'd want to see a horror film in the first place, for the scares.

But the film spends so much time setting up its grand finale that by the time it gets to its third act, I was all but ready to check out completely. Thankfully, I hadn't, because I would've missed out on what is quite possibly the most insane and bonkers turn of events I have witnessed in a film this year. The final twist was so overwhelming that I found myself questioning what I was even watching. That's how gloriously executed that entire stretch of the movie was.

It's just a shame that the rest of the film didn't even attempt to measure up. On the flip side, the movie did have some great cinematography that worked well to heighten the tension in those earlier scenes, as well as some cool gore effects that is sure to leave all but the most jaded of gore hounds feeling squeamish. It did tend to get a little bit too heavy on its use of CGI though, which I generally don't like to see in horror films since it makes them feel less believable. But I'd still like to say that they manage to strike a nice balance between that and all the practical effects on display.

Malignant is saved by a climax so wild that you almost wouldn't believe your eyes while watching it. The final 20 minutes manage to go so completely off the rails, and in the best way possible, that it almost made up for the slog we had to endure to get there. James Wan clearly has a mastery of the art of horror, and the wildness and unhinged nature of this particular vision are what make the film ultimately worthwhile.