“It’s time to cut out… the cancer”
Over the years, James Wan has made himself a modern household name for horror fans. Wanna watch a scary film? Just put on “The Conjuring”. Wanna creep yourself out till you can’t even get some shut eye by counting sheep? Watch “Insidious”. And of course, you’ll want to play a game with “Saw”… Or uhhh… Maybe not?
In recent years, Wan has ventured out of that (dark) realm to direct not one but two blockbuster hits in both the DCEU and “Fast and Furious” franchise. Nevertheless, he stays true to his roots. Wan has always strived to involve himself in dark and gut-slashing pieces in some capacity. With “Malignant”, however, it marks Wan’s directorial efforts once again in a horrifying feature of his own mind.
“Malignant” begins by introducing the lead, Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who lives with her abusive husband, Derek (Jake Abel). After an argument leads to an impulsive lash upon Madison, Derek is shut out as Madison licks her physical and emotional wounds. However, a gloomy force looms upon the house and soon Derek is found to have been brutally murdered.
Soon after, the mystery intensifies as more people are captured and mercilessly killed. As the plot thickens, a dark secret from Madison’s past reemerges. Can she run? Is she able to hide from it? Will more people have to die?
Alright. It’s really simple here. Whatever preconceived notions you may have about the movie beforehand, yeah, just throw it out into the trash. Indeed, the movie does not conform to your demon-possessed, old-hagly-spirit-haunts. Yes, we went into the movie hoping to not be able to sleep for the night but nope, that’s not how the story concludes.
James Wan has stated beforehand that he didn’t want audiences to think of “The Conjuring” when going into this movie. He wanted to present something that was fresh and original within the horror genre. And there’s no doubt that he kinda succeeds with that.
Now, we know some people might turn the set off at midpoint because the film doesn’t try to captivate up to that mark. And we urge you not to do that. Of course, it might seem that the characters are caught up in this endless mystery. The police are busy solving the cases of their John Does. Madison is still moping around. The film does not take giant strides ahead.
However, and this is a big HOWEVER, a whopping twist happens right before the third act which is where it gets totally bonkers! Of course we wouldn’t dare to spoil it here but the crazy events that unfold can be described as some sick love-child of Cronenberg, “Kill Bill” and “The Matrix”. It’s gory, full of slashing fun, and loads of breaking bones. And that’s only part of what we have in mind.
A majority of the film embraces an over-the-top mood, giving rise to particularly squirmy dialogue and laughable close-ups of facial contortions. But OK, no judgement here, that’s what they were going for and we’re all for it. Nonetheless, the rest of the film is laughably inconsistent in its delivery.
Indeed, Joseph Bishara’s synthetic riff of the classic Pixie’s song “Where Is My Mind” in “Malignant” can be a perfect summation of this movie. Thematically, it sticks. but very often it becomes a distracting piece that rings in your head. That’s true for the entire film.
There are many ways “Malignant” could have maintained its creepy posture. Nevertheless, the main thing we will discuss here is narrative tension. The bubble consistently pops as though there was no intention to get audiences on the edges of their seats. Indeed, much of it attributes itself to the choppy editing. It is a nightmare to get through as the narrative flipping sides like a burger patty diminishes the film’s capacity for actual tension.
Now, the same issue is evident in a film like “Aquaman” but in that DCEU outing, it felt a little more muted due to the pacing of the superhero feature itself . Now, when a film like “Malignant” has an unconventional momentum, the distracted boyfriend decides to go off tangent in favour of some long side-quests involving the local authorities that ultimately fail due to the way the film ends.
Now, the one bright light we really have to talk about here is Anabelle Wallis, who “Peaky Blinders”‘ fans will recognise as Grace Shelby. She manages to convey the conflict of having a dark past and the subsequent terrors that come with it pretty well. However, when it actually gets to the third act, that’s where Annabelle displays her talent for all to see. It’s a little bit of a shame that her character isn’t that great but the performance itself was pretty commendable.
In the end, “Malignant” does provide some thrills through its third act but emotion-wise, it felt void. There is not much care put into the characters themselves that we cease to understand the point of some of the film’s themes. Again, it’s probably the way the film is edited but there isn’t a proper wrap to certain arcs here. It is as if a footlong sub was just filled with some olive oil and ranch sauce, toasted, and served directly to the customer.
Of course, Wan deserves much credit for risking a whole lot with “Malignant”. His vision to not make a repetitive product is very much achieved. However, the outcome itself doesn’t feel very polished. It’s not boring per se. Technically speaking, “Malignant” is dope. The camera movements and shots had us in awe at some points.
Nevertheless, a haphazard script and choppy editing are the film’s bane. It is the malignant cancer that has to disappear from the rest of the body for it to be a healthy, functioning system. The unconventional gamble may be unique but it’s a shame that it falters in so many arenas by its conclusion.
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"Malignant" has some creative ideas and a big twist courtesy of its bonkers third act. Nevertheless, the unconventional pacing of James Wan's latest will not satiate the hunger for thrills and tension-filled horror.
- "Malignant" Review 0%