Malignant ★★★

Malignant isn’t much of a horror movie—the scares are standard, the dialogue is awful, the performances are incongruous—but as a horror idea, it’s a whopper. And it’s not one I will spoil here. I’ll only say that the story of a pregnant wife (Annabelle Wallis) who experiences visions of a long-haired, trenchcoat-clad figure committing grisly murders—murders that are then revealed to have taken place in real life—goes in a bizonkers direction you’ll never guess, even if there is a somewhat ingenious clue in the herky-jerky way the killer moves. (Akela Cooper wrote the screenplay from a story she developed with Ingrid Bisu and director James Wan.) For the most part, Wan displays little of the canny craft he brought to The Conjuring (or, for that matter, Furious 7), but the way he swings the camera for the movie’s big reveal is a brilliant stroke of self-aware showmanship (and makes me want to start an annual Halloween tradition of watching Malignant with someone who is experiencing it for the first time, just to see their jaw collide with the floor). I’m not sure Malignant is necessarily good after that point, but there’s something thrilling about watching a movie so rabidly batty let off its leash.