'Malignant' Review: James Wan's Supernatural Horror Goes Full-On Bonkers
To be honest, it wouldn't feel completely wrong to just casually chat about other things going on in the world for these first two paragraphs and then decide to dive into the topic right at the end. But it could be rather cruel to subject anyone to that sort of experimentation so we might as well talk about Malignant, a new supernatural horror effort from director James Wan who returns to his usual playing field.
After an intro that's set in 1993 and shows patient named Gabriel causing havoc at a psych ward, a time jump moves us to Seattle 27 years later (read into that number if you will) where Madison (Annabelle Wallis) arrives home, only to end up being assaulted by her husband (Jake Abel) whilst pregnant. Later after bleeding from her head and falling asleep, she finds him dead downstairs. Following those events, Madison begins to have visions of other murders and claiming Gabriel is behind them, only to be questioned by detectives Shaw and Moss (George Young and Michole Briana White, respectively) tracking the case while her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) believes her.
What is perhaps the most confounding thing about that is the name James Wan being behind all of this as Malignant's first 80 minutes—which deal with everything said above—are nearly-if-not-exactly incompetent. Screenplay by Akela Cooper is clunky and filled with subpar dialogue (one perfect example being that fight between Madison and her husband), creating an atmosphere where characters' motivations are constantly unclear. Even wilder is that the following 20-25 minutes are pretty much world-class, full-on horror-action-comedy spectacles one after another, not only looking like the $40 million film that you were promised but also being the perfect mixture of off-putting, highly entertaining and technically suitable filmmaking.
Those first 80 minutes and even the last shot or two are therefore even more outrageous because the film doesn't come together stylistically either. Joseph Bishara's score is overbearing from front to back when only the ending justifies it, all the while DoP Michael Burgess' lighting harkens back to the drained, dull look of 'The Curse Of La Llorona' after doing slightly better on the latest 'The Conjuring' movie, resulting actors' faces being just as flat as the light coming in from fake windows.
Much of the creative team return from other movies in the 'Conjuring' franchise and there's a conversation to be had about that because the true insanity deserving of psychiatric hospitals is the repetition. The results aren't getting better but nothing is changing besides the budgets. It's truly laughable that Malignant can't even pull off a scene featuring stormy weather; sound design choices of the rumbling and noises inside are empty like laugh tracks, coupled with above-mentioned flat lighting and unfitting music. Ridiculous ending is fun and all but it does come with the cost of our sanity.
Smileys: Ending, makeup
Frowneys: Screenplay, lighting, sound design
You could say that I won't become attached to this one.