Malignant ★★★

If nothing else, Malignant confirms James Wan as the most talented director of nonsense working today. If anyone else had directed this script it would’ve turned out terrible, just pure garbage, but Wan’s extraordinary talent for audience engagement with ingeniously co-ordinated scares and kinetic fish-eye action sequences ensures the film transcends its smorgasbord of reference points (Dario Argento, Frank Henenlotter, Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg, Stuart Gordon, there’s even some Wachowski sisters in there) into something truly unique. I love the way this movie looks, from the exaggerated camera angles and creeping cinematography to the excessive use of fog machines and neon red-and-blue lighting, it feels like a culmination of all of Wan’s visual fixations in one crazy Z-grade package executed with remarkable ability and structured to the rhythms of a rollercoaster ride.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this might be one of the most purely entertaining horror movies I’ve seen from the last ten years, thanks to both the magnificent array of setpieces (especially towards the end) and the absolutely hilarious dialogue and line delivery (some of which I’m sure was intentional and some of which… I don’t even know, man). Annabelle Wallis does a good job as the lead while every other actor feels ripped straight out of a cheesy splatter film from 1989; the lines they have to say are ridiculous and their performances even more so but it’s at the service of such a heightened tone I found it relatively easy to roll with. Of course it also helps that Joseph Bishara’s soundtrack bangs, the film looks great and Kirk Morri’s editing is full of goofy personality while antagonist Gabriel (a giallo slasher/Cronenbergian goop monster hybrid whose weapon of choice is an “award for excellence” statue grinded into a golden dagger) is one of the coolest horror movie villains to emerge in a long time.

Malignant is the real deal – a pastiche that’s just as dumb as the schlock horror garbage it’s inspired by but about a hundred times more skilfully executed, mixing industrial grimecore vibes with 80s retro fantasia and old-fashioned haunted house spooks to create something unexpected and constantly surprising. Any major quibbles I had were all but forgotten by the time that soon-to-be-iconic third act kicked in – now that’s how you end a fuckin’ movie.

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