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Review: Malignant

James Wan is a certified Master of Horror with Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring and he returned to horror this past weekend for Malignant, which is a bloody and absolutely bonkers horror roller coaster.

Annabelle Wallis plays Madison Mitchell, who doesn’t remember anything that happened to her before she was 8 and adopted into the Lake family.  After a violent argument with her husband Derek over her constant miscarriages, the couple is attacked by a mysterious assailant that kills Derek and leaves Madison unconscious and she loses another unborn child.  Returning home after recovering in the hospital, Madison starts to have horrific visions of people around Seattle getting murdered, which turn out to be real and the murders seem to all be people tied to Madison’s past at a research facility.  Malignant is all about its third-act twist about what is actually going on, which is one of the most insane reveals I’ve ever seen in a horror movie and after the reveal, it somehow gets even crazier as it builds to its finale.  Up until that point, Malignant is a solid slasher with some particularly brutal and over-the-top kills and some absolutely exquisite cinematography where Wan seems to pull out every camera trick in the book, including some great long takes and a sequence where you are looking straight down into a building and great establishing shots and locations.  There’s also brilliant use of light and dark to build suspense which ties into the killer, Gabriel, being able to manipulate electricity and there’s also a really awesome effect every time Madison has a vision where the world sort of melts around her and reforms into the location of next death.

Acting-wise, no one really stands out.  Annabelle Wallis has a great scared face when she’s frozen and being forced to watch horrific murders but she’s not a particularly interesting or dynamic horror heroine.  The true star of the movie is the team that brings Gabriel to life.  Dancer and contortionist Marina Mazepa provides the physical performance while voice actor Ray Chase provides his voice, which is broadcast through nearby radios.  The physicality of Gabriel lets Wan bring sequences that are normally reserved for action movies like John Wick to the horror genre, like a parkour chase through the Seattle Underground and a sequence in a police station that easily stands up choreography wise to the aforementioned John Wick movies and truly makes Malignant stand apart from recent horror offerings.

Malignant seems to be very divisive and, if you haven’t yet, the main thing to keep in mind is that it is absolutely over the top and insane, so if you’re looking for a serious horror movie, you will probably be disappointed.  Malignant is bombastic, cheesy, brutally violent, and has one of the craziest final acts I’ve ever seen, so I thought it was a fun roller coaster ride that is definitely worth checking out on HBO Max but maybe not worth trekking out to a theater for.

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