Malignant ★★★★½

Despite admiring Saw, liking Death Sentence and having a good time with Aquaman, I’ve always been somewhat mixed on James Wan. The Conjuring and Insidious never grabbed me (although the former is well overdue for a revisit). His films just seemed to...exist among the wider horror scene, while I gravitated more towards the likes of The Witch and Hereditary.

But I am 110% here for the James Wan of Malignant. The director cashes in his Fast & Furious/Aquaman/Conjuring blank check on Henenlotter-esque weird and Lustig-esque adrenaline, the gonzo unbounded spirit of ‘90s DTV horror upscaled to studio sleekness. If Malignant came out in the mid-‘90s, we’d be mentioning it in the same breath as The First Power and Body Parts. This is delirious horror mayhem that straddles genres and tones with utter abandon.

Bravo to Warner Bros for not playing its hand in the marketing. The WTF tonal whiplash going from the vague promos to the opening scene alone hooked me from the start. With fearless campy glee, Wan completely delivers on the promise of Malignant’s early minutes: using the filmic language of the giallo, the slasher, and Raimi to construct an electrifying masterclass in unhinged horror schlock. Never “scary”, but always engaging and immensely fun: a horror crowdpleaser in the ultimate sense of the word, aiming to please with every second of its nearly two hours.

The entire cast is committed to an over-the-top energy that matches Wan’s dynamic camera and feverish blood-splattered set-pieces. Characters, plot threads, and entire acts are assembled with messy nightmare logic that embraces its own insanity, yet somehow untangles into an audaciously-creative bravura final act that sent my jaw careening towards the earth’s core. Saying exactly what other movies I was reminded of would be saying too much, but just know that Wan’s inner action director comes out to play and has an absolute blast.

Unabashed trashy b-movie fun on a lush studio budget: Malignant had me grinning like a madman for most of its runtime. My god, holy shit, what a ride

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