The big name in horror that I always look forward to is the incredible director, James Wan. Between Saw (2004), Insidious (2010), and The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016), Wan has demonstrated fantastic success in his horror films and I have thoroughly enjoyed every horror film he has ever directed. So even with the lackluster trailers that marketed the film, I was eagerly awaiting James Wan’s newest horror endeavor, Malignant (2021). With Wan’s previous repertoire, I went in this movie with a very distinct style and tone in mind, and Wan definitely went in a completely different direction with Malignant that is either going to delight horror fans, or turn them off immediately.
After the murder of her abusive husband (played by Jake Abel), Madison Mitchell (played by Annabelle Wallis) is plagued with horrible visions of gruesome murders. As more murders begin to plague Madison’s mind, Madison becomes quickly aware that these visions are very much real—as she dreams it, it actually happens. The only clue as to who is behind these murders, is a name that recurs in Madison visions: Gabriel. Trying to win her innocence in the eyes of the police (who believe she killed her husband), Madison and her adoptive sister, Sydney Lake (played by Maddie Hasson), try to find out who Gabriel is before he kills again.
Every now and then, you will hear people describe a movie as bonkers—this is one of those movies. Most James Wan horror films have a more serious tone with an emphasis on terrifying atmosphere, well written dialogue, and a fantastic set of characters. From the opening scene, Wan lets you know that Malignant has none of these things. Malignant is very much a love letter to late 90s and early to mid 2000’s horror: this film is full of camp, cringe dialogue, and out-of-nowhere shock value with its INSANE twist. This is going to make or break this movie for people immediately. As soon as this movie kicked off, my initial reaction was, “this is one of the worst horror movies I have seen in years,” and the film’s complete mediocrity continued and continued.
Then I got what James Wan was going for, or at least, what I hope he was going for. This is a film made to be complete and utter camp. The dialogue was horrendous, the acting was subpar, the story was very surface level, and it wasn’t until about twenty-five minutes in that I realized that it was all done intentionally. As soon as I realized that this was what James Wan was going for, I was okay to keep going watching the film. Then the big twist happened, and I was in complete shock at the craziness that came out of James Wan’s mind. The last fifteen minutes of this film was complete craziness that will leave your jaw dropped until the end of the movie and, overall, made for a very fun conclusion to this 2000’s horror homage.
I am not big fan of early/mid 2000’s horror films. So, while I appreciated the massive homage this film was to that era of the genre, it simply wasn’t a movie for me—until the climax of the film. Was the climax enough to win me over and declare the film as great? No. By the end of the film, did I have a good time? Yes. That said, if you are a fan of 2000’s horror and campy B-movie horror, you will be completely delighted by this movie. If your favorite style of horror is that of the Final Destination (2000) and Scream (1996) franchises (more in line with the later sequels of both franchises), I would definitely recommend this movie for you to nestle in and watch this Halloweek.
Malignant (2021) is rated R for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language.
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