There was a point while I was watching James Wanâ€™s MALIGNANT when my eyeballs fell out of my head and rolled across the floor. I had to get down on my hands and knees, scoop them up and push the damn bastards back into my skull. Itâ€™s been far too long since a movie has surprised me to such a degree and I think Iâ€™d almost forgotten what a glorious experience that is. The brazen originality is even more astounding when you consider that the lionâ€™s share of the film plays like a stroll through the horror section of a video store. Itâ€™s almost a Whereâ€™s Waldo? of horror homage; a colorful kaleidoscope spitting out splinters of BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (’64), SUSPIRIA (’77), PHENOMENA (’85), NEXT OF KIN (’82), THE SENDER (’82), I MADMAN (89), DARKMAN (’90), BASKET CASE (’82), BRAIN DAMAGE (’88), SCISSORS (’91), HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL(’99), GOTHICA (’03) and so many more. Personally it made me feel like a pig in slop as so much of the set-up felt like a big budget remake of my personal pet fave MADHOUSE (â€˜81). But then, just as youâ€™re snuggling into the safety of the familiar parading by to the beat of one fantastic score, the entire highly stylized snow globe is turned on its head and shook ferociously and an incredibly novel and exciting new beast emerges.
Annabelle Wallis (whoâ€™s got a wonderful Juliette Binoche meets Mary Steenburgen in DEAD OF WINTER (’87) vibe going on) plays Madison Mitchell, a very troubled and very pregnant woman with an abusive husband and a repressed past (her younger self is played by the always excellent Mckenna Grace). One evening her home is invaded by a sinister, shadowy figure that leaves her with a mutilated hubby, a null and void pregnancy and a big giant bouquet of flashbacks to a traumatizing childhood and psychic visions of murders as they occur. Madison is my favorite type of horror heroine in that she is an unapologetic, freaked-out mess that everyone thinks is crazy until the inevitable moment they do some light research and find the files that explain everythingâ€¦well, almost everything. Lots of folks are going to find the over-the-top acting style and sometimes comic book-like approach a little too hokey to handle but I honestly found it refreshing not to be weighed down with tired faux-gritty â€œrealismâ€. This flick is a long way from SAW (’04) and the further away we get from SAW the happier I seem to be.
MALIGNANT neednâ€™t worry about cynical audiences and lukewarm box-office. This bad boy is destined to be obsessed over endlessly. No, itâ€™s not for everybody but thems the breaks when you draw outside the lines and stake new ground. I get the feeling Wan followed his heart and made exactly the film he wanted to and maybe he too was missing the broad colorful strokes and heights of fantasy horror achieved in less dour decades. In the end, it doesnâ€™t matter what specific titles or sub-genres influenced Wan, by and large he clearly meant to remind of us of a time when movies were freer and more fun and that goal was exceedingly met. I for one canâ€™t stop thinking about this wild, phantasmic explosion of dream-like insanity and Iâ€™m so grateful knowing that I can still find myself completely shell-shocked by a horror film.
Iâ€™m not much of a fan of Saw, but Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing this one on Saturday night (my local Alamo Drafthouse has finally reopened). Unk, your review is encouraging!
I watched this and loved it. Great fun. People need to just relax and enjoy stuff sometimes. Life is too hard and too short. And this is too wonderfully weird.
I know with relative certainty which scene you’re referring to in the beginning of this review because I had the same reaction. I guessed to a good degree where they were going with the plot but missed one crucial detail and it was one of the most genuine WTF moments I’ve had watching a film.
I watched it in virtual reality as well which made it seem huge and loud rather than simply watching it on my TV. If you can’t see it in a theater (or don’t want to) this method is highly recommended.
100% agree, Unk! This movie was so gorgeous, so much fun, so surprising — everything except so-so! Annebelle Wallis was giving me Suzy Kendall vibes throughout. I’m thinking of going to see it again this weekend. More movies like this, I say! More bright colors, more fun, more craziness, please!
The reaction to this movie reminds me of Insidious Part 2, where Wan also fully committed to some bonkers, weird and fun ideas but had Whannel’s writing to still somewhat ground the whole thing.
Malignant does not touch the ground at all, it starts flying through the air and ends up somewhere in space. Such a wonderful little movie. Not perfect, some of it is really rough, but so much fun.
Let me know what you think! I had every intention of seeing it at the theater but they had no matinee shows so I just watched it on HBO on my computer. To make up for the small screen I wore headphones so the sound and score were fantastic.
Agree, I donâ€™t think some people get that Wan is sorta playing up the broad cliches on purpose so the dialogue and acting seems off but once you get that thereâ€™s a level of parody/send-up it really works.
I didnâ€™t even know about this VR thing. Iâ€™m kinda old and out of it but it sounds right up my alley. I never got tired or over 3-D, I LOVE IT, even the anaglyph red/blue glasses I dig so that VR sounds awesome!
yes! my eyeballs were in heaven, there always seemed to be something going on and I was totally transfixed and hypnotized. To get both a movie w tons of nods toward the past ( I just realized it also kinda reminded me of BAD DREAMS â€™88) that also offers the most original twist Iâ€™ve seen for years is such a giant score imo.
Totally, I feel like the people who hated it are maybe too cynical and unable to go along for the ride because itâ€™s just so fantastical but thatâ€™s really what charmed me and brought me back to the good old days of the early ELM STREETs and such. Itâ€™s too bad when they remake films like NOES for modern audiences the first thing they do is ground it and make it resemble gritty reality and thatâ€™s just the wrong way to go in my opinion. I go to the movies to escape that stuff. This movie has more in common with THE WIZARD OF OZ than SE7EN & SAW. Can’t wait to watch it again.
Unfortunately, I kinda figured out the … thing … about ten minutes in, so no eyeballs rolling here. At least not rolling outside of my head.
Don’t get me wrong – I liked it. But some of the dialogue – holy smokes. “Breaking news this hour as police are reporting the body of (spoiler) was found brutally murdered in her Washington park home this morning. The grisly discovery was made by the housekeeper at approximately 8:30 this morning.” Her body was murdered? Discovered in the morning you say?
Still, there are so many fun things going on – a fantastical underground Seattle with hidden alcoves full of old stagecoaches, Matrix-like chase and fight scenes, the most comically unrealistic police force ever filmed and tons of bonkers gore. I was cry-laughing during one nutso mass slaughter (I’ll let you guess which one).
I rate it four out of five psionic teratomas.
Haha. That chair throw from across the room still cracks me up. There is A LOT of silliness in this movie. What about when they had a picture of her as a kid but couldnâ€™t tell it was her until somebody aged it for them!?! What? I think I may have implied that people who donâ€™t like this flick lack imagination before but I didnâ€™t mean that. I know Aunt John and my niece and nephew-in-law were all way more skeptical than myself and I think they just require things to be more realistic than I do. I can roll with goofy stuff fairly easily. I can watch HALLOWEEN 3: SOTW and have zero qualms about it not making much sense and just take it in on a sort of fairy tale level. I totally get how this flick asks for a suspension of disbelief more than most but I also think folks these days may be moving in the direction of taking in movies a little too literally. To me, they are like dreams and can roll on dream logic.
I havenâ€™t watched this yet (that will be rectified in about three hours!), but I totally get what youâ€™re saying about modern audiences relying too much on realism and being too cynical. All it takes is a casual stroll through the IMDb to witness reviewers piling on movies for the unforgivable sin of (gasp!) a minor plot hole or (heavens!) a scientific factoid gotten wrong or (land sakes!) a character not behaving in a completely rational fashion. With criteria like these, the Italian film industry would never have released anything! And itâ€™s rather ironic, considering the glut of superhero movies being made these days, which arenâ€™t exactly realistic.
Furthermore, I thought Saw was way overrated, what I saw of Aquaman was gag-inducing, and thought Insidious and The Conjuring looked very lame. But Iâ€™m willing to take a chance and watch Malignant in the theater (first theater movie in two years). It sounds just bizarre enough to be right up my alley!
Just saw the film last night. Unk, you didnâ€™t mention George Romeroâ€™s The Dark Half (or Stephen Kingâ€™s novel), which came to my mind as I watched.
SDC, Yes, def DARK HALF going on! that eye in the brain thing is right there! Sorry, I was juggling so many titles I missed a few (many)!
I just reread this review and now am itching to watch this again.