Malignant (2021) movie review
Malignant is a new horror film from Director James Wan, who directed Saw (2004), Insidious (2010), and the first two Conjuring films (2013/16). The film follows Madison, who begins to see murders as they are happening. Now she must find the answer in her past before this horror comes for her next… The film opens this weekend, but only boasts mixed reviews, with some calling it original, and others calling it downright silly. It’s silly.
Malignant is 80s B-movie body horror throwback at its absolute worst, reminding us why people like Wan worked so hard to help reinvent the genre in the last decade. Now if you are perhaps one of those stoic individuals who can put aside the execution of a concept to appreciate the ingenuity behind it without also having to think through the nonsensical reasoning behind it, maybe you will find enjoyment from Wan’s latest. If so, I genuinely hope you enjoy. But my gut instinct watching this film late at night wasn’t to wince in terror, it was verbal laughter, and I cannot ignore that reaction for any reason.
Malignant hits the road running, introducing the cheesy tone as quickly as possible, but treating it with an odd amount of, well, sobriety. The cast was given the task of delivering their corny dialogue as solemnly as possibly, which combined with the sharp visual style and hilariously outcast score from Joseph Bishara, made the film feel like Buddy the Elf’s spaghetti and syrup meal. While I am certain it tasted- unique? It was neither good for you nor, well, good at all. Like Will Ferrell’s man-child of an Elf, I am certain there are those who will find some enjoyment from the tonal smoothie that Wan has blended together. Not I. I found the choice to have the protagonist’s key reaction to ‘scream at everything’ quite the wrong direction for anything past the year 2010 in horror.
(No seriously, she wakes up once and she’s lying next to a guy in bed. Now this is like the third or fourth time she’s had these visions, and there’s no monster in sight. So she lets out a ‘bloodcurdling scream’ because balding man?) This does take me into one of the worst elements in this film: the performances. Maddie Hasson was the only talent in the film who managed to land the ridiculous dialogue that feels straight out of the first draft of the script. From the silly detectives who should be offering one-liners opposite Ice-T to the sadly confused lead performance Annabelle Wallis, it is no wonder the concept never sticks. The cast is being asked to handle a very questionable story told through a poor screenpaly with seemingly aimless direction. Every time a character just screams “Noooo, NOOOO,” you need to do another take. People don’t- yeah nobody does that.
Enough about the bad acting or lame dialogue or music cues that cut so hard you’d think you were watching the ending of Fight Club if you replaced “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies with evil Morty’s theme, we need to talk about the thing that happens near the end of this movie. For the life of me, I don’t know why I won’t spoil this. But I won’t. That said, gosh it doesn’t work. I get it, but the execution of that somewhat clever idea is as nonsensical as it is, well, silly. James Wan and the writers are asking the audience to swallow a large pill here, and it’s medicine we don’t need. (I am totally down to talk spoilers if it would help. Leave a comment and let us know if we should!)
Turns out, silly is indeed the perfect word for this mess. Very little works here. The film isn’t scary, and when you dig into the fundamental reasons for the scares, you get a real Basket Case (1982) of an execution. Except- worse. The mismatched score and poor combination of acting and directing seriously hinder the film’s ability to sell the ridiculous premise, which in itself borders on unbelievable. In the end, Malignant is not only disappointing, it’s terrible. Not since Mark Wahlberg talked to trees did I laugh to hard during the finale of a horror film. If this were some Blumhouse B movie, I would honestly be more forgiving. But this is James Wan here! 2/10.
So Malignant? Did you see it? What did you think? And what horror movie let you down the most when you saw it? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, or you want us to do a spoiler-filled review on the film, leave a comment and let us know what we should talk about next! As always, thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince