Spoilers are right behind you.
Have you ever watch a direct genre horror film and found it has a subtle but unintentional comedy angle? I would even argue this is also has a very subtle subversion, but I’m not getting it in here yet. I’m just going to argue this is one of the first darkly entertaining fun horror films that I’ve been expecting to run into for a while. I have been yearning for a horror film, and this one just delivers although in rather homage fashion. Pass me the nearest unintendedly sharp trophy, and let’s start.
Malignant (2021) is directed by James Wan, who wrote it with Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper. When we first meet our cursed heroine, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is pregnant and trapped in an abusive relationship. After surviving what looks like a home invasion by a ghostly attacker, Madison is left short one abusive husband but loses her unborn child. Fortunately, she has her loving sister funny-girl Sydney (Maddie Hasson) and the help of cop-hero Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) and his partner-with-a-comeback Detective Regina Moss (Michole Briana White). She’ll need them, because somehow she has a link with the attacker, a mysterious figure named Gabriel. His turn-ons are electricity, darkness and making weapons out of questionably and unsafely shaped medical awards.
Very early on, we learn that Madison was adopted. Actually the movie begins with a CGI shot of the Simeon Institute that almost put me off this feature right then and there. Fortunately the rest of the CGI budget was far better employed after that establishing shot. There are clues as to what the link is between Madison and Gabriel throughout the film, but the actual truth is not only strange and messed up but completely fantastical horror genre trash fire. I’m not going to give you the over-the-top reveal because I found it so satisfying that the story went into that direction. You’ll probably guess it at some point but there’s a slight chance it will surprise you anyway.
I have to commend the filmmakers here. This feature might read like a run-of-the-mill horror story but does above average cinematography. The colour palette emulates many other horror films so much that I felt a homage to the 80’s look and feel in some choices. The camera angles, especially panning and that overhead long shot throughout Madison’s house were particularly enjoyable. The gore is both believable and preposterous. The sets (the real one, not that starting shot which we could’ve done without) are really well planned, specially the house. I am going to spoil one particularly enjoyable aspect I was not expecting. There is a wire work fighting choreography in this film. No, I swear I am not drunk. It also fits, in kind of a crazy way, but we’re far over-the-top into crazy territory when you see it.
It works, surprisingly well. I mean, horror-wise this is cliche territory. But if you watch it as a nostalgic 80’s style madcap horror satire, it works really well. There’s unintended comedic timing between the characters. This is the reason I named all the main cast. Wallis pulls off the tragic final girl Madison in a decent fashion, but the supporting cast have at least a few lines to deliver to make themselves memorable. It’s not open comedy hour, it’s incidental but there are horror moments that just amusing and deliver without ever breaking character.
Highly recommended for the horror-but-fun loving crowd. For the right audience, it has a comedic entertainment value that is not too hard to find. It’s hard to tell you to keep your expectations low after so much praise, but I hate that it might go underrated. Definitely worth a watch, specially when you’ve been reviewing horror films for a couple of months without finding something worth praising.
That will do for now.