Thursday, October 21, 2021

In the Reels: ‘Malignant’ difficult to diagnose

Cameron Kaercher

James Wan, the Malaysianborn writer-director, has been one of the most vital horror filmmakers of the century so far. In 2004, he created a new horror movement with “Saw”
that would spawn lesser sequels and even worse rip-offs. These films filled the screen with as much blood and gore as one can stomach. While these films aren’t for everyone, money talks and there are seven sequels in the franchise. The latest of which was released during the pandemic, “Spiral: From the Book of Saw.”

Wan would continue to make successful horror franchises as he helmed “Insidious” in 2010 and “The Conjuring” in 2013. After taking a break from horror with the blockbuster success of “Aquaman,” Wan returned to his favorite genre with “Malignant.”

“Malignant” stars Annabelle Wallis, as Madison, a young nurse in Seattle, trapped in an abusive relationship. One night after a brutal confrontation, she is stricken with nightmares of her husband, played by Jake Abel, being murdered. She wakes up to realize those premonitions were more reality than fantasy, and even worse, she is the prime suspect. The waking dreams don’t stop there, and the body count grows, as Madison tries to figure out what is at the heart of her visions.

In writing, the film seems par for the course. It is all material that Wan has worked with
throughout his career; dreams, murder and maybe some demonic possession. However, he
summed it up best in a recent Instagram post, “Don’t go in expecting The Conjuring, this
is a different beast.”

The whole film feels like an inside joke about corporate-driven filmmaking.

The twists and turns that are best learned about throughout the runtime feel sleazy and not suitable for a big-budget horror film. The casting of Zoë Bell shows b-movie fans that Wan wants to have fun with this film. Bell is best known as the star of Quentin Tarantino’s grindhouse homage, “Death Proof.” Her admittedly not great acting always lets audiences know that the film shouldn’t be taken seriously. By the time she does show up in the film, the story has let its guard down and shown the audience it’s bizarre bloody beating heart.

The twist might be fairly obvious to well-seasoned horror film fans, but the details of the
twist set the film apart from plenty of other horror thrillers. It is difficult to imagine seeing
this film in a full theater. Half of the audience would look away in shame, while the other half would probably revel in Wan’s grotesque horror flick.

The gore from “Saw” is more than present here and it is accentuated by the phenomenal
stunt team. Buckets of blood are spilled and the kills are a dime a dozen.

The audience score for “Malignant” on Rotten Tomatoes currently sits at 53% approval.
Let this be a pre-operation disclosure. The film is truly bizarre, and the last 30 minutes might be one of the funniest comedies this year. Here’s to hoping the latest trend Wan
starts is for mainstream horror movies to become more committed to bizarre stories.

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