Malignant - James Wan goes back to directing horror

I feel like this almost could have been good. I think it is supposed to be a pastiche of several 80’s (and maybe 70’s) horror movies that I won’t list here for spoiler reasons. If that was the intent, it’s not a bad job of it, and the overall horror plot is ok, if rather campy. Some of the action sequences are decent, with plenty of gore.

But mostly it’s just bad. Marred by some rediculous effects, awful dialog, and poor acting.

The opening sequence is so terrible, I was sure it was on purpose, and they were going to pull a “hey, actually we’re on the set of a movie-within-a-movie that is a low-budget b-movie!”. But, nope. That’s the actual movie.

I’m a Saw apologist, but it turns out I haven’t actually seen many other James Wan movies, other than the first Conjuring. Maybe that’s a good thing…

Reviews are all over the place with this one. A.A. Dowd, who is notoriously hard to please, seemed to like it quite a bit:

I’ll essentially repeat what I wrote in the general horror thread. I wasn’t bored, but I don’t think this was that good. The dialogue is pretty terrible in parts. @JoshL is right about the prologue that takes place in 1993. It’s Syfy Original bad. There’s other bits that are real clunkers.

Still, if you get past all that and stick with it to the last half-hour it goes gonzo nuts. The premise is super dumb (and illogical) but the movie really leans into it in an impressive way. It’s like Wan wanted to challenge himself to direct action scenes based on the dumbest setup ever.

This is a lot less Conjuring or Insidious and a lot more like Dead Silence, where it’s obvious the whole thing was written around one dumb joke/twist reveal and the rest of the movie contorts around that specific scene Wan had in his head. There’s a difference between horror WTF and comedy WTF, which is a fine line that you can dance on, but I don’t think Wan successfully does that here.

Malignant (2021) - James Wan returns to horror, except this is really more of a superhero/villain origin story. It’s on HBO Max. First, you get an ominous prologue from ye olde days of 1993 that doesn’t make sense until later. Opening credits, then the movie starts. Annabelle Wallis plays Madison, a pregnant woman married to an abusive husband. After he slams her head into a wall he falls asleep on the downstairs couch while Madison nurses her injury and sleeps in the bed. (They live in a Seattle area mansion despite her being a night-shift care worker and him seemingly being unemployed.) A sinister person attacks them, killing the husband and knocking Madison out. After that, Madison is somehow linked psychically to the killer and dream-witnesses him murdering people. It seems like a pretty bog-standard damsel-linked-to-the-killer plot at first but there’s a lot more going on in the back half. Hoo boy! A lot more.

Without spoilers I can say that this is not a movie that could’ve been made without a major studio giving a director an effects budget based on his success with blockbusters. It’s still a modest project compared to Aquaman or Furious 7, but it’s obvious there’s more money in this than Insidious or The Conjuring. It’s a fine line between horror WTF and comedy WTF. I’m not sure if James Wan succeeds here.

The twist reveal of Gabriel is so bonkers, it’s hard to take seriously. And oy! The trophy having the equivalent of a hardened sword on it is soooooooooo stupid. The extended backwards movement fight scenes are awesome to watch though.

Why does Gabriel/Madison have superhuman strength? How does Gabriel/Madison speak through radio? Did Madison have no scars? She should, right? I don’t care how great of a surgeon you are, if you removed that from someone’s back, there would be some gnarly visible scars.

Is it good? That’s a harder question. I wasn’t mad at the time I spent watching it, but I really enjoyed the technical aspects of it.

Not reading your review until later, because I got tickets just now to go see this tonight at the drive-in.

I liked the trailer, and the reviews have been decent so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been seeing ads for Malignant everywhere all of a sudden, seems like it just sprang out of nowhere. Kinda want to see it now.

I’ll watch it purely because it’s simultaneous on HBO Max. The Conjuring did not at all earn Wan any faith from me. (It was competent, but it didn’t do much for me.)

James Wan said in some interview that Malignant is his version of a giallo movie.

No man. In no way is this giallo. Putting a red or blue light on scenes does not make your movie giallo.

Ha, sorry had to laugh a bit about that one just because giallo is Italian for yellow.

It is! Because the cheap dime store novels that helped coin the name of the genre had yellow covers.

Watched it when I couldn’t sleep last night. A few creepy moments (James Wan is really good at creepy camera work) and a pretty dynamite denouement, but there were, of course, stupid cops in this film and some really kind of offensively cliché moments (in particular, the jail scene–instead of a butch lesbian and a blaxploitation chick egged on by some down-on-their-luck prostitutes, why not have made the movie topical and had the cops beat the shit out of her instead?) The overall narrative is really really dumb, but the conceit of the film is pretty cool and there are some fun showcase scenes in it.

What a weird use for Zoe Bell! I almost didn’t recognize her in the jail.

The other odd character was the lovesick forensics agent.

OMG, I didn’t recognize her. Yeah really. Both of those characters were weird.

I just want you to know, what you did there, I see it.

How bad is the gore in this thing? I like the James Wan horror stuff, but I understand this one goes more all-out and I am a lightweight when it comes to gore.

So on a scale of 1 to Bone Tomahawk…

There are severed limbs, face stabbings, compound fractures, and lots of blood splatter. It’s on par with Cabin in the Woods, but doesn’t have torture porn.

The title pretty much gives away the twist if you think about it too long.

I’m watching this tonight, and my first impression is that whoever is ripping off The Pixies better at least give them credit at the end.

Final review: a shitty movie with an interesting twist is not a good movie. I was mad at this movie because we could have watched two more episodes of brand new cherry flavor instead.

Ha, good point, I was wondering about that too (omg that used that riff SO MANY TIMES). The song does in fact get credit at the end.