Quick synopsis: Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is a pregnant woman living in Seattle with her abusive partner. She starts receiving visions of people being murdered and………..actually you know what? A synopsis would not help you that much here. Just watch the trailer, then watch the film. It’s fucking strange.
I watched this on the 25th September, and I still haven’t properly gathered my thoughts about it. It’s something unlike anything else you will see this year. One of the most unique films and I’m still not sure how it got made and given a wide release. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, but also has a weird sense of familiarity. It’s the kind of film I may not buy, but I do want to see again just to experience it.
It’s a really strange film, incredibly uneven. There are moments where it looks slick as hell and incredibly well produced, but then moments where it looks really cheap and kind of silly. I have never both enjoyed and been disappointed at the same time as much as I have with this. Some of it feels like it’s a tribute to horror movies of time past, there’s a definite air of the giallo horror movies of the 70s and 80s, but also very reminiscent of the early horror movies of Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi. It mostly works, but there’s one moment which is supposed to be horrifying but I heard laughter in the screening I went to.
One thing that is pretty even throughout is the tone. It’s consistently uneven. There are some sub-plots here which definitely could have been cut. Chief among them is a romance sub-plot that felt so unnaturally shoe-horned in I wanted to hit both characters with a cheese grater and tell them to stop being so damn horny. It might work if the performances are better, but they’re incredibly flat a lot of the time. So wooden they might as well be an IKEA shelving unit.
Now onto the good. The music is great. Both in terms of the songs picked, and the original score. It’s incredibly brutal in parts, not shying away in situations when lesser films would.
And the third act? It’s the cinematic equivalent of throwing lasagne against the wall and playing in the mess it’s created. It’s chaotic, it’s strange, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The visuals are brilliant in parts. Some of the effects aren’t great, but the actual look and colour schemes are beautiful. It says a lot about both this film, and how much of a pretentious dick that I am, that there are a few scenes in this where I thought “wow, that use of focus and shadow is very Citizen Kane”. There are so many shots here which could have been a poster.
So in summary go see it. You may love it, you may hate it, but you will be fascinated by it and feel yourself unable to turn away. I am so glad something like this can get made, I am all about this kind of big-ish budget experimental cinema. A truly risky move from director James Wan, but one I feels pays off.
2 thoughts on “Malignant (2021)”
I love Malignant. It’s a love letter to hard core horror fans and serves as a homage film to the various horror styles and trends in the past. It’s such a good blend of slasher, creature, supernatural, psychological, body and atmospheric horror.
I think a lot of horror fans may be reluctant because James Wan is kind of a polarizing modern horror director. I for one hate the Saw franchise and the Conjuring. But I do give each director credit where credit is due and Malignant brought me nothing but smiles. The same way Cabin in The Woods and Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon do.
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Agree, it felt very much like it was made for horror fans. People who love the genre will get more out of it than people for whom it’s their first horror film. This is the first time in a while for Wan where it’s felt like he REALLY wanted to make this. Had the feeling of a passion project
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