Malignant

Malignant ★★★★

This was so much fun! Loved the practical effects. Loved the visual effects as well. I still think James Wan "overdirects" everything. But with this movie, I started to fall for his overly flashy directing style. However personal this movie might be for him (compared to his franchise entries, at least this movie is an original idea), Malignant still showcases the populist horror directorial instincts that James Wan is known for.

James Wan's directing is never subtle, never not 100% direct. The tension-building is always maximized to a T. Nothing is left uncertain. You are never allowed to put two and two together by yourself. Every bit of information presented on screen is immediately verbalized out loud to make doubly sure everyone understands the plot. You must also always be absolutely sure what to feel in each and every scene. Everything is brought to your attention by the most literal camera moves, the most in-your-face musical cues. You are directly told when to feel terrified. Which, for me, meant that most of the time the movie achieved the exact opposite effect. This is the popcorn-guzzling, loudly entertaining, MCU-theme-park-ride version of horror movies.

Yet, for some reason, Malignant works. It is so proud of how unsubtle it is that it starts to play with it. Some of the scenes are so overacted, others require so much suspension of disbelief, the movie edges on becoming outright camp. It is a movie that's executed with utmost perfection, with impeccable craftsmanship, only to become the most B movie imaginable. Which is something I do adore.

I admire James Wan's intention here. Do not expect a hint of groundedness. Even if you see two cops on screen, do not expect them to act like other cops in other movies. This is a stylized reality. Mental institutions are situated in old, towering castles here. A kitchen knife won't do here, killers go around with the most uniquely designed blades in this movie. In prison cells, all kinds of people can and will show up, even women who look like blaxploitation heroines from the 70s.

Yet, Malignant does shy away from going full unhinged for most of its runtime. I would have been fine if this movie didn't even try to make sense. I would have been fine if none of the characters acted like normal human beings at all. In its storytelling, Malignant tries to reach the widest audience possible, not leaving a single audience member behind with all the plot intricacies and all the scares. In its tone and style, however, it is much more of an acquired taste.

This clash of storytelling and style creates a tonal inconsistency that's really hard to put my finger on. Wan swings big with Malignant, but cannot leave his populist instincts behind.

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