Malignant ★★★★

Malignant is a couple dozen conceptual larks wadded together into a thoroughly enjoyable whole: Relatively fresh detective-procedural, haunted-house and slasher-flick tropes. A whirr-click-crackle vintage-tech fetish. Psychological horror including, but not limited to, hypnotic regression and repressed memories. Throwback visual textures. Dabblings in mystery, action and self-aware comedy. Effectively gross stabs at splatter-gore, with an emphasis on compound fractures. The occasional occultic flourish. And it’s all brought together sort of but not all that coherently with a core ties-that-bind metaphor that’s horrifying, gross, demented and funny as hell.

I think this is going to be a massively split movie as far as people loving/hating it. This is nowhere near being the type of horror movie James Wan has done with the Conjuring and Insidious series, so if you were going in expecting that sort of vibe or those kind of scares, drop that notion. This is the goofy James Wan of Aquaman and Furious 7, not the intense one of Insidious and The Conjuring. It's a very campy and almost downright silly 80's inspired body horror supernatural slasher that gave me Wes Craven/Frank Henenlotter vibes, with lurid touches of giallo sprinkled in.

It's much more aimed at being absurd/campy/fun than it is at scaring you, but it's still got plenty of great body horror in it. The set designs, motifs of the killer, the kills themselves, the murder weapon, the music, etc.. are definitely going to scratch your itch if you were looking for scares, and there are actually a couple of well earned jump scares, but for me this movie really stands out for its bizarre concept and execution. Even if you do manage to get on Malignant’s wavelength and predict where the surreal plot is headed, you’ll probably get whiplash when it unfolds. The film’s third-act centerpieces are unpredictably strange and absolutely breathtaking. To hell with the rules, to hell with storytelling sanity, Wan is having so much fun being freaky that we get swept up in his manic energy. He’s a tornado of sketchy ideas and viscera, and he’s sucking us all into his mad monster vortex. James Wan really went way out of the box with his thinking on this movie and matches that same insane energy with his direction.

This might be a little too out there and ridiculous for some people, and for others it might not be quite the horror movie they were expecting, so in the next few days when more people are talking about it I'm expecting to see a lot of split opinions, but I'm just so blown away by James Wan for even attempting a movie as wild as this and I think he succeeded in making something incredibly fun and original.


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