Cheesy horror is back: A review of “Malignant”

The director of “The Conjuring” brings the aesthetic of ’80s horror into 2021

“Malignant” is the latest horror film from James Wan, the director of “Saw,” “Insidious,” “The Conjuring,” “Furious 7” and “Aquaman.” The film stars Annabelle Wallis (from “Peaky Blinders”) as Madison, a woman who is plagued by violent visions of a cloaked man that goes on a murderous rampage. As vague (and formulaic) as that premise is, I would rather not say much else about the film’s bizarre twists and turns.
With all the table-setting out of the way, I’d like to note that my view on this movie is somewhat odd. If I were to talk about the film “objectively,” I’d say that the movie is a mess. The story has some very interesting moments, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. This by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many films end with a sense of ambiguity. However, with “Malignant,” at the part of the film where the plot is explained to the audience, there are a few moments that were just never actually explained. Also, the film has some pretty dumb lines of dialogue.
That said, I actually really love this movie. I’ve watched it three times now, and I can’t wait to watch it for a fourth. In spite of all of the film’s issues, Wan made it clear that the film was trying to be a cheesy, violent horror movie, and he definitely succeeded there. The deaths are very brutal and fun to watch, although they aren’t exactly creative; in slashers like the “Chucky” and “Friday the 13th” franchises, deaths should have some sort of variety to them. But what the violence lacks in variety, it certainly makes up for in brutality, maybe being the most violent horror film of the year (until “Halloween Kills” released a month later).
There is one aspect of the film that many critics and audiences have been discussing, and unfortunately, it is something that I would prefer not to discuss in detail. The scene in question is a plot twist that I’d rather not spoil for people who haven’t watched the movie. With that being said, the twist is probably the most insane thing I’ve seen all year. As someone who watches a lot of movies (too many, if I’m being honest), I was able to see part of the twist coming, but there was a lot more to the execution than I was expecting.
In conclusion, “Malignant” is a mixed bag for me, at least from the “critic” side of me. There are elements of the story that don’t make much sense by the end, and I feel like the last act was rushed quite a bit. However, as a fan of horror, I find the film’s cheesiness and batshit insanity to be both entertaining and endearing. For other horror fans, I can’t recommend this enough.

Rating: 7/10