Malignant

Malignant ★★★★★

All the Colors of the Dark

The first two things that struck me about this, and that I haven't been able to stop thinking about, are the usage of darkness and light. Pretty, candy-colored light, all hues of red, pink, and blue, juxtaposed against wells of inky blackness where unknown terror lurks. The way Wan shapes the darkness, creating negative space as a key component of shot composition, was something I couldn't get enough of. I don't think I've ever seen a director so boldly embrace the usage of darkness in a horror film. Sometimes, there were only a few edge-lit objects lost in a sea of black. And everything that was visible was frequently bathed in a neon glow. An aesthetic that so clicked with me.

I also loved the way the establishing shot of the hospital made it look like Dracula's castle, and the way the house looked like the Addams Family's vacation home, and the way the police station looked like it belongs in Racoon City. And I loved all the little signature James Wan touches. The way he places or moves the camera. The rhythm with which he edits a scene to expertly draw out the slow buildup of tension, before delivering a well-deserved and properly executed jump scare. A lot of moments in the first half, after the pre-credit scene, will feel like classic Wan, reminding you of things like The Conjuring or Insidious, before this thing jumps the track and morphs into a different and gloriously schlocky beast.

Yes, this is not the bleak and serious horror we've come to expect of late, nor is it "elevated" in any way whatsoever. This is a gleeful homage to a bygone era that I frequently lament the passing of. The golden age of horror. It's Wan drawing on so many influences and mashing so many things together, in that Raimi kinda way. It goes places in the second half that you might not have expected, including an action sequence in a police station that could have felt at home in a John Wick movie. It might turn a lot of people off, but it was just such beautiful schlock that I couldn't help but love it. I mean, if you were so inclined, it would be easy to nitpick this thing to death. There are so many loose strands that, if tugged on, could unravel the entire tapestry. I, however, am content to leave those strands alone and just enjoy the experience. Old school horror fans, raised on schlock from the 70s and 80s, would be kind of hypocritical to come down too hard on this, in the same way that Godzilla fans are rather silly for criticizing the handling of human drama in the recent Godzilla films. Sure it's goofy, but when has that ever been a problem before? It's weird how we sometimes hold newer films to completely different standards than we hold the older ones, isn't it?

Oh, and that cover of Where Is My Mind fucking slaps, no?

Watched with Jozlyn

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