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A Bump on the Head Goes a Long Way in James Wan’s ‘Malignant’

Despite its sinister title, 'Malignant' is a bone-crunching, head-bashing, slicing good time.

By MovieBabblePublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Warner Bros.

Horror cinema has frequently been misunderstood and dismissed by haughty cineastes. From the multitude of slasher clones and their countless cheaply made sequels, the genre has always been an easy mark for pretentious snobbery.

If you’re a fan of Roger Ebert, you know his contemptuous opinion about the genre. But this is still observable in current film journalism. In a recent review for the upcoming Halloween Kills, the well-paid reviewer made the bold and highly inaccurate statement that the original Halloween was actually a clone of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This review wasn’t just written by some blogger, this came from someone writing for a huge entertainment magazine. The rich history of the Halloween franchise, of the slasher genre in general, was outright ignored.

As a horror buff myself, I’ve always been a staunch defender, and quite forgiving to many of its more garish examples. Admittedly, not everyone can appreciate the genre’s sillier pleasures — such as practical gore effects.

In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in more sophisticated horror cinema. Instead of just relegating the genre to a monster or killer running amok, it was used to examine the horror within. The dark forces plotting against the central characters, whether it be supernatural or crazed humans, were manifestations of their inner conflicts; a battle as much for their lives as for their sanity. You can see this in The Babadook, His House, Relic, and the most recent example, The Night House.

These films might be rich in either jump scares and/or ghoulish visages, but there is so much more to them. These are not just mindless spookfests to consume and forget about instantly. These films will stay with you, even haunt you. These are smart, unrelenting character dramas.

But Malignant is NOT one of those films. Oh no, no. Malignant isn’t going to make you think, in fact, it helps if you don’t ponder the many bizarre illogicalities portrayed on screen. If you do that, the whole thing can easily fall apart. Yes, Malignant is pretty stupid. It’s not the ‘thinking man’s horror film’. But, it’s stupid in the best way the horror genre can be.

It’s best to watch the film without knowing anything — the trailer also spoils an important death scene. In the opening, we see some sort of mental hospital, where some creature is wreaking havoc, killing many of the staff members. They manage to subdue this creature and the head doctor notes that it’s time to “cut out this cancer”.

Cue years later and we are introduced to Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who’s stuck in an abusive relationship with Derek (Jake Abel). An argument leads to Derek pushing Madison against the wall, which causes a bloody bump on the back of her head. In turn, she locks herself away in the bedroom. At night, a malevolent creature called Gabriel (Ray Chase) enters the apartment and from then on, things get spooky.

I won’t spoil much more, just in case you haven’t seen it. Go in blind and embrace the insanity on display.

I’m rather apathetic when it comes to James Wan’s directorial efforts. As the director who headlined several profitable horror franchises, none of them have made much of an impression on me. I’ve enjoyed Saw as well as many of its moronic sequels, especially when I was younger, but its appeal has waned over the years. Now I enjoy them in a much more cynical fashion. I guess you could call it a guilty pleasure.

I’m much less enthused about his other franchises. The Insidious movies, though certainly technically strong, when it comes to the vigorous camerawork and stylish visuals, lack any sort of thematic depth. It feels like a shallow haunted house affair. The Conjuring movies are interchangeable in that regard, though I also take issue with the subject material — I don’t like any film that mythologizes charlatans like Lorraine and Ed Warren.

In both cases, they are safe, commercially appealing, inoffensive horror films, with a sanitized PG-13 rating to boot. There’s no edge to them, nothing to startle the establishment.

This is what makes Malignant much more interesting. It’s still a shallow chiller, but it feels unhinged, less contained and marketable. Not only that, the horror isn’t contained this time by a PG-13 rating. Nope, this is a hard-R and James Wan goes absolutely buck wild with the gore.

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READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW ON OUR WEBSITE: https://moviebabble.com/2021/09/12/a-bump-on-the-head-goes-a-long-way-in-james-wans-malignant/

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