Recently, I saw the new horror film Malignant. I needed a few days to process this one. Here is the SPOILER-FREE plot. In the opening scene, we're introduced to the villainous Gabriel in an insane asylum on a killing spree. From there we meet Madison who's seemingly haunted by visions of his brutal murders that turn out to have actually happened later. It's a mystery. Who is Gabriel?
James Wan (who started mega horror franchises Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious) has returned to his horror roots after directing Fast and Furious 7 and Aquaman. He wrote the screenplay with Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper. Their love of the 70s, 80s, and 90s horror films along with Giallo and Asian horror cinema is expressed by mimicking a mix of the many subgenres with a playful self-awareness setting the tone for the film immediately. As a horror aficionado, things felt familiar in a comforting nostalgic sense. It made me think everything was purposefully done for the rest of the film. It's not reliant on jump scars either. Wan has a flair for stunning visuals. His implementation of interesting camera work like sweeping 360-degree shots, framing, and camera angles are impressive. The way he filmed Madison running through her house with the camera following her from above looking down in one take was exquisite. He's also good at clever scene transitions. I also enjoyed the great use of light and shadows giving a dark moody atmosphere. For example, the motif used with the colours red and blue is innovative. While it's CGI heavy they applied practical effects too. Sometimes CGI is required but other times it feels overused. It's nice they don't hold back on the gore like most of Wan's other films. The great gore effects are severely violent to the point of cartoonishness but it adds to the campy factor. The score is fantastic too. It's reminiscent of classic horror movies giving the film a distinct sense of dread.
Annabelle Wallis plays Madeline. Her captivating performance carries the film. More than a sympathetic victim, she's piecing the puzzle together along with viewers trying to comprehend the identity of this frightening Gabriel figure with help from her resourceful sister, Maddie Hasson as Sydney. They have tremendous chemistry giving the sibling dynamic significance. They're a team I was rooting for.
Overall, I embraced how it doesn't take itself too seriously. I loved how it's totally off the wall. It's weird, brutal, bonkers, and doesn't hold back from the over-the-top campy entertaining gory wackiness. I can't imagine any other director being able to pull this off like Wan. He's confident to go with unabashedly original ideas that left a lasting impression while reinventing himself as a filmmaker too. He uses what he learned and applied it in fresh ways. It does have its flaws like the glaring plot holes leaving me with unanswered questions. Some things are inconsistent or don't make sense and some explanations are utterly ridiculous but the intriguing mystery kept me engaged. I couldn't predict the ending, however, it's left open-ended for a sequel. Is this another possible lucrative horror franchise? Compared to Wan's other films, I'd say it's above average. It's not his best nor his worst. The trailer doesn't do the film justice. It's so different from what he's done before it's hard to compare. It's just so fascinating. I highly recommend seeing this in theatres to get the full effect of the experience. It's one of the best horror movies so far this year. And remember, the definition of Malignant is something evil by nature that terminates fatally so it fitting that this wickedly entertaining film kills the benign modern horror competition.
Grade: Large Popcorn