Well, my goodness! It’s a little hard to know what to think about Malignant when the credits roll. This latest horror film by James Wan boasts cool atmospheric imagery and a talented cast but the plot, in my opinion, goes too far into looney town. I’m not opposed to popcorn films that have crazy plots and are meant for pure entertainment. My issue here is that I feel like this film doesn’t know that it’s as wild as it is. Tonally, this just felt off kilter to me. I know other critics have praised this as good campy horror fun, but again, I feel this film has an identity problem.
There are a good many scenes that I really enjoyed here. Wan knows how to set up creepy atmospheric scenes that work, that’s for sure. The visuals that are created here are so rich and have a classic horror film feel to them. Wan’s directorial skills are on full display as well. I was impressed by how he chose to film certain scenes. I was the most impressed by two scenes in particular where two characters are in peril.
These scenes are prolonged and because of the way they’re filmed, they have some nice suspense to them. I was onboard in the beginning and during the middle because of scenes like those that elicited a suspenseful feeling. Unfortunately, the film goes from being an atmospheric mysterious horror film to being a laugh out loud B-movie horror film. Now some moviegoers may enjoy this tonal shift, but I did not. I heard that this was “bonkers” but I was hoping it would be bonkers in a good way. In my opinion, the third act goes bonkers in a bad way. I wish Malignant would have stayed the course it seemed to be on before the third act kicks into gear.
I will say this: the twist that occurs in the final act is inventive. Although it’s inventive, the way it’s handled just feels too jokey and silly. There are many scenes leading up to that final act that feel like serious horror, where as nearly everything after the twist is revealed doesn’t. This is why I say there’s an identity crisis going on here. On one hand, there are suspenseful scenes that have interesting skilled camera work by Wan and then on the other there’s silly video game like scenes that feel more comical than anything else.
Oh and beware, the blood and guts go flying during the last twenty minutes. I felt like they went a little overboard with the carnage towards the end, that’s one of the things that made it feel more comical than serious. I suppose I’ve come to expect more from a Wan horror film given that he was responsible for one of my favorite horror films ever: Insidious. In my opinion, Malignant pales in comparison to Insidious. I also loved Aquaman, that he of course directed. James Wan has immense talent and some of that talent is in this film, but unlike previous films he’s done, this one falls apart during its sprint to the finish line.
I really hate it because as I said, there’s some great camera work and visuals on display. Also Wallis’s lead performance is very good. I’ve liked Annabelle Wallis in previous films but she really packs a punch in this leading role. Her performance is fittingly intense. I also want to praise Michole Briana White for her skilled supporting performance.
After I finished watching this I wasn’t really sure how to feel due to my liking a lot of the earlier scenes and then really not liking that final act. When it’s all said and done, this is a mixed bag. Even though my take on Malignant isn’t exactly a positive one, I’m still thoroughly excited for Wan’s next project, whatever that may be. This man has the goods, he just couldn’t stick the landing here.
Malignant is a film filled with rich visuals and smart direction, but is held back by a jarring shift into loony town.
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