Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
This is simultaneously the type of film I rarely like but also love. It takes a lot for me to truly appreciate cheese on the level that is often required for a film like this. I love a quality slasher, but most slashers are just not that good. I also love when a movie is so freaking self-aware, and that is exactly what Malignant is. It is completely aware of almost everything it is doing. James Wan has been around the block, and for those questioning whether certain moments are intentional or not, shame on you (I don’t care that much, but it makes for a more impactful statement). This film uses brilliant music cues and top-notch cinematography/color correction to establish its presence, but what takes it over the top is the creativity.
The film heavily features shades of your classic Sci-Fi tropes, the general slasher mentality in the third act, some brilliant body Horror, and a wild premise that feels almost too authentic. It is almost so out there that it becomes absurd at a point, and the entire third act falls into that category, but I cannot claim that it wasn’t a blast. It also feels like every trope used is there for a purpose. The cliché police station element feels shoehorned at first, but then you realize that she is there to give us one of the most insane action scenes of the year. It is true that the final few moments push believability to its limits, but Wan opens up this treasure chest of techniques and shots, so the quality is there to help it sit a bit better if you are on edge. My biggest compliment is how bat shit crazy it is, but there is never a moment where you feel a lack of stakes.
The mystery surrounding Madison through the first two acts is enough to keep you locked in, but it is the reveal that will force you to decide whether you are in or out. When we find out what has actually been happening, there are no words to describe it. Wan utilizes practical effects in a way that throws you back into what fans of the genre have been longing for to return. On top of that, and Wan’s impressive imprint, there are clear Sam Raimi vibes. Evil Dead is wild, fun and self-aware. This isn’t quite as creative, and it leans far more into taking those integral moments more serious, but there are shades of that style of storytelling for sure. The supporting characters lack the memorability and personality required to fully praise the cast, but they were fine. Annabelle (not the doll) Wallis is the clear standout. It is just a distinct Horror film that will split general audiences right down the middle, but whether they love it or despise it, I guarantee they will be talking about it.
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