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Insane in the Membrane

"Malignant" will grow on you

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I shouldn't recommend this movie to you, but I have to do it. It's too insane not to be a part of your life. Co-writer/director James Wan has made a movie so completely bonkers that I'm not sure there's ever been anything like it before and there certainly won't be anyone trying to rip it off. Make no mistake, "Malignant" is not a movie that you're going to have mixed feelings over. You're either on this film's wavelength and along for the ride, or you're gonna think this is one of the dumbest and most ridiculous horror movies ever made.

I'm not going to go into the plot too much because watching this blind made for one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had watching a movie all year. Letting the insane majesty of Wan's vision wash over me reminded me of the good old days where you could actually watch a movie without six months of trailers spoiling almost all of the surprises first. And, oh my, does this movie have some surprises up its sleeve.

Beware the creepy kitchen in James Wan's "Malignant." - PHOTO COURTESY OF HBO
  • Photo courtesy of HBO
  • Beware the creepy kitchen in James Wan's "Malignant."

Annabelle Wallis plays Madison Lake, a woman who starts psychically seeing people get murdered by a shadowy figure in a leather jacket and black gloves. Even if you guess why things are happening to her ahead of the big "twist," when everything actually started to come together, I found myself full belly laughing from the sheer audacity of what Wan and team have attempted here.

Wan takes all of the lessons he's learned from his low-budget days making the original "Saw" and combines them with the camera trickery of "The Conjuring" and the ridiculousness of "Aquaman" to make a movie that wears its bloody Italian Giallo influences on its sleeves with pride. I'm not sure "Malignant" is actually a good movie. But what I am sure of is that it's a giant swing for the fences that looks at "elevated" horror movies like "Hereditary" and "Lighthouse" and says, "What if instead of lots of quiet, painterly moments, we make something so big, loud and gross that people will have to remember this movie forever?"

"Malignant" is a deeply stupid and deranged pot-boiler of a horror flick that plays as a homage to those '80s Italian grindhouse movies you'd find deep in the dustiest section of your neighborhood video store. Wan has become such a virtuoso with camera movement that the film feels like a haunted house ride in which you're pulled from room to room on a safe but rickety car on rails. If well-made schlock makes you happy then I can't imagine a movie this year that will top the insanely tasteless pleasures of "Malignant."

So yeah, I shouldn't recommend this movie to you because I guarantee only two out of 10 of you will like it for its gruesome stupid heart. There's no realism here whatsoever—just pure cinematic grotesqueries with a wink in its eye and a bloody knife in its hands. I'm not sure I can say "Malignant" is a good movie, but I can, unequivocally, say I love it and can't wait to make absolutely everyone I know suffer through it with me.

Malignant
Dir. James Wan
Grade: B-
Now Playing at Old Mill and streaming on HBOMax

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