Malignant (2021)
September 11, 2021 4:50 AM - Subscribe

Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.

Directed by James Wan. Currently in theaters and on HBO Max.
posted by DirtyOldTown (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mainstream in its approach, but bonkers in its premise. Shallow in its goals, but expert in its execution.

It's not great, but it's got enough going for it and it straddles a narrow overlap between cracklingly well-executed mainstream film and bafflingly weird oddity such that it's going to have a devoted fan base. Had it come out between 1995-2005, it would have been checked out at the video store every weekend without fail.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:03 PM on September 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I found it disappointing. The premise struck me as something that would have done well in the 80s and maybe early 90s. The premise is similar to cult movies like Basketcase and It's Alive, which I love. Unfortunately, the slickness of it, including the cgi didn't work for me. Had Wan approached this more as a tribute to 80s cult horror, it might have worked better for me. I am curious to see what non-genre fans think of it.
posted by miss-lapin at 1:49 PM on September 11, 2021

I enjoyed it as a 2 1/2 star change of pace deal for Wan. But I'm convinced it's going to be well-loved by casual horror fans. It's gonna be a normies-getting-weird thing like Gothika.

I'm coming around on Wan as a horror director who is extremely sharp from a technical sense and I think I have underrated him some. But I still don't really track the kind of jagged thematic stuff the real greats have.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

On rottentomatoes, it's currently ranked at 72 percent so it seems I am in the minority of people disappointed by it.

I'm glad people enjoyed it. I really wanted to.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:34 PM on September 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

What a weird mix this movie is. You take modern mainstream horror, with its color fuckery, and its upper class aesthetics and sensibilities, and its incredibly shallow boring square ass white people -- then you add weird goofy campy horror monster movie. It's a weird mix. I kept wondering who is this movie really for. Does it synthesize well? Not really, but it sort of fails in fun ways that is going to appeal to people who like dumb weird garbage but also like to say the word 'cinema'.

It reminds me a little of how Insidious had that meta-appreciation level where it's kind of going through decades of horror movie styles as it goes through its story. Is it kind of interesting in a meta-cinematic way? Yes. Is it, rewarding, or something that makes it overall a good movie? Well.... .. .. .. not really.
posted by fleacircus at 4:00 PM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

As a long time horror fan who grew up watching weird shit like the aforementioned Basket Case, I was so happy this movie went so unabashedly to such a bizarre place. I hope the normies embrace this, and that it encourages horror filmmakers to move out of their Conjuring/Annabelle/Nun-esque comfort zones. Of course Wan ended it in such a way that he can whip up a sequel the moment someone drives a dump truck of cash up to his doorstep, but one can hardly blame him, in this filmic environment.

This marks the second time in a week I’ve watched a horror story in which a woman protagonist is thrown into a holding cell with a bunch of belligerent criminals, only for the woman’s paranormal phenomenon to manifest horrifyingly. Speaking of which, Dirty Old Town, where’s your Brand New Cherry Flavor post?
posted by ejs at 7:22 PM on September 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I had not heard of Brand New Cherry Flavor, as I haven't used Netflix much lately. It goes on the list though!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:21 AM on September 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Loved it. That opening shot of the ridiculous hospital had me immediately questioning the seriousness of this and then on the 2nd or 3rd time when the "Where is My Mind" remix played I decided it was not taking itself seriously and had a blast. I would argue this is a deconstruction of horror in the same vein as Scream.

We've got possession in the first scene mixed with monster/alien. We've got weird ghost with long hair in the second sequence, there's slasher moments, amnesia, hypnosis, creepy abandoned insane asylum, evil imaginary friend, possessed kid's toy phone, bit of a Jigsaw vibe with the phone calls and of course The Final Girl. It was like a Pirate's of the Caribbean movie except instead of massive action setpieces getting more and more outrageous it was different horror scenes getting weirder and weirder.
posted by M Edward at 9:28 PM on September 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

Hated it. I like my horror movies to be scary. This movie ? I couldn't stop laughing...

The bad acting, the moronic plot... Just... no...
posted by Pendragon at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I loved this, truly a head-spinning premise. I pretty much put the pieces together pretty early on, and then the movie experience changed from "surely this will get better soon" to "they aren't really doing Basket Case 2021, are they?" Then by the end the whole thing morphed into a sort of action movie / superhero origin story. I found my enjoyment was in direct inverse proportion to the degree to which I took the inane story at all seriously. I wouldn't want every horror movie to be like this, but I'm glad there are horror movies that are like this.

I agree about Wan's technical chops being a little better than I expected, especially the cinematography which managed to get almost arty once in a while.
posted by whir at 6:06 PM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The overhead shot that pans over Madison's entire home is terrific, a rare horror twofer of someone with style also having a shit ton of money to work with.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:03 AM on September 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

More plot holes than a piece of Swiss cheese.

When Madison is in the hospital after her husband is killed, don’t doctors examine her head injury?

How does Gabriel know where to find the retired hospital employees and the birth mother?

Where are the tools from that Gabriel uses to customize the trophy knife? (pun on trophy wife?)

Then there’s just ridiculousness like the gothic hospital on the northwest coast where Sydney easily finds her sister’s medical file.

Maybe it’s ridiculous enough to become a camp classic.
posted by larrybob at 7:05 AM on September 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

This was a delicious neo-giallo that actually tried to be more than a by-the-numbers homage to to the likes of Fulci, Argento, and Bava. I totally get this not being on the same wavelength as most of you, but for me this is a perfect blend of giallo and '80s high concept horror filmed in a more modern style instead of being a pastiche of either of those styles of horror. The closest thing tonally to this that I can think of is 2018's In Fabric, but this threw out all of the sleaze and eroticism in favour of focusing on the procedural parody and a touch of body horror.

This was very much a giallo, which explains why it didn't focus on being "scary." Gialli usually lean more thriller or crime procedural. They're all about lurid, voyeuristic murders and the police investigations which is exactly what is going on in Malignant. You have a police procedural shot and acted in the style of cheesy American procedurals intercut with Madison as a literal voyeur of violent murders. They even use the blue color grading that is was so common in these procedural crime shows and films while including camera flourishes like the scene with Madison running in the house that wouldn't be out of place in a giallo (although they wouldn't have had the means to make that particular shot back then). Not to mention the closeups on leather gloves and a bizarre murder weapon, which was done in such a classic giallo style.

Again, I totally understand why someone wouldn't vibe with this because gialli are a bit of an acquired taste and don't make a lot of sense to people raised on post-halloween slashers and '90s erotic thrillers. The horror industry long ago stripped out the different elements of giallo and turned them into standalone subgenres in the American film industry. Something like Malignant which sticks them all back together reads as incoherent or a weird mishmash of genres, but its really more of an updated throwback.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 10:55 PM on September 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

This was very much a giallo, which explains why it didn't focus on being "scary." Gialli usually lean more thriller or crime procedural.

Well, the poster says : A New Visson of Terror. Terror this ain't . More like terrorible.
posted by Pendragon at 12:17 PM on October 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

This was beautiful bonkers. Was it scary? No. Was the acting great? Definately not. But - it was a visual treat and well executed.

More plot holes than a piece of Swiss cheese.

I mean - the giveway is right in the title and the opening sequence. Exactly how does one refer to a tumor one does not want? (Doubly-so when we learn about exactly what kind of doctor she was...)

But... also ... the hospital/medical environment from the opening sequence was relatively modern - 1980's/1990's styles, lighting, doorways, equipment.

Yet - when her sister returns to search for clues, it is as if the hospital was shuttered in the 50's... wicker-backed anachronistic wheelchairs abound... Throw-back style signage apparently from the 30's...
posted by rozcakj at 1:24 PM on January 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

truly a head-spinning premise

I see what you did there.

I agree with the general consensus: this is trash in the best kind of way. I love to see big budget horror get weird with it and I applaud the effort. I also think the film is pretty explicit about what it is and how it approaches the material. I laughed out loud at the first shot of the hospital because I felt that set the tone immediately. The giallo comparison is really apt.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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