Monday, September 13, 2021

Malignant Review: A Throwback Horror Experience That Gets In Your Head

Release date: September 10, 2021
Running time: 111 minutes
Director: James Wan
Writers: James Wan(story by), Akela Cooper(screenplay by), Ingrid Bisu(story by)
Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie

Madison (Wallis) is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.

Malignant feels like a throwback film for all the good and the bad that it entails.  The movie has a definite old school style from the start, with a prominent VHS effect on the first videos that you see in the film.  And the throwback feel is present throughout, even when it is not using a VHS filter.  Many characters give exaggerated delivery and the film also has a deliberate cinematography that evokes classic horror.  Add to this the over-the-top performances and intense camera angles and you have a throwback film in our modern time.  And the 80s influence also shows in the slasher aspects of the movie, as they are violent and grisly.  The effects are quite good as is the amount of blood that is spilled when this movie gets going.  And accompanying this all is some wonderful music that also gives this film a classic feel.  And finally, the film has Wan's trademark use of red light in many scenes; it is something that has become his signature and I loved seeing it again.

And the story of Malignant starts off very mysterious, with strange occurrences and an overarching sense of dread as Madison tries to figure out more about this strange killer that she is connected to.  It was very confusing at the start but there is an explanation.  However, the film is over-the-top and that includes the explanation for what is happening.  It was clever and did pull the pieces together, but there is also a general sense of ridiculousness to this.  Part of that is the 80s nature, where some insane explanations are expected, but in practice what you get is an interesting, but sometimes laughable experience.  I give props to Wan for going for it and seeing this bizarre story to the conclusion, but I also couldn't help but wish for something more serious from this master of horror.

Malignant has some big ideas and an over-the-top, throwback style, but the craziness extends to the story which constantly skirts the line from genius to ridiculous.

Rent it.

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Malignant is available in theaters and on HBO Max on September 10, 2021.  It will leave HBO Max after October 10, 2021.  For tickets to see it in theaters, click here

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