James Wan’s Malignant

James Wan has some balls, I’ll say that much. He’s pioneered various chambers of the horror genre several times over in his career so far with game changers like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, quickly becoming a household name with the talent, innovation and passion to back it up. If his newest film Malignant is going to have any kind of the same ripple effect then buckle the fuck up because this is one wild, demented, bonkers, stir crazy oddity and the best time I’ve had with a horror this year. This will be one of those reviews where I will mention almost nothing plot related because it’s just too much tantalizing fun unwinding this ball of yarn for yourself with fresh eyes. The film focuses on a woman (Annabelle Wallis) who begins to have terrifying waking nightmares where she observes a shadowy figure committing heinous acts of murder. The rest I’ll leave be, just see this thing and experience its WTF, nonsensical yet balls-out wonderful third act that truly transcends the boundaries of coherency, decency and convention for something so weird you’ll laugh, cry and shit your pants in unison. Wan is clearly well versed and a fan of many sub-genres and in this we see sly, loving nods to many other artists, most notably Dario Argento and 70’s Italian horror, so if some of the acting comes across as campy or silly just know that was most assuredly his intention and simply bask in the nostalgia. Some of the gore is real and some is CGI and while CGI blood is never ideal in my books the melding is done pretty well here, and it’s understandable that given a story with this much movement, commotion and visual kinetic madness it would have been tough as hell to do all the effects in a practical fashion. To cement the retro vibes we also get a showstopper of an original score composed by Wan’s go to guy Joseph Bishara that’s resplendent with shrieks, howls and heart-pounding synth chords that, for me at least, heavily echoed Goblin’s iconic electronic work in Argento’s films. Wan has worked in PG-13 realms quite a bit and been incredibly successful at making effective horror within those constraints, but he’s gone full R rated here, about as far as you can go into R rated territory in fact, for a no holds barred, rip snortin, unbelievable gong show of blood, violence, mayhem, schlock and a third act twist that’s so beyond anything rational or sane that I’m not even sure it makes sense but I loved every minute of and deeply admire the sheer audacity of. One of my personal favourites of the year so far.

-Nate Hill

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