For the first two thirds or-so of James Wan’s new popcorn fuelled Friday night frightener, I must confess: I wasn’t really enjoying it that much. I like James Wan, he always seems to know what he’s doing regardless of genre, because the man is known for his horror cinema (and doing it well), yet the moment he makes an Aquaman movie he’s suddenly completely aware that slapping on a clown suit and turning the silliness up to eleven is the best way to go. That’s what I enjoyed most about that movie, a film about Aquaman *needs* to be a ridiculous romp. But Malignant struggled right from the start with what should have been an easy job; while able to boast some cool camera work – decent cinematography overall in fact, its performances were that of bad 90’s cheese. I wonder though, was it the acting or the dumb dialogue making them look bad? ‘Cause it was one of them!
I was convinced for a long time that Malignant would not be the kind of film I could get a reasonable review out of, most of the plot consisted of every modern horror movie cliche in the book and any kind of write up would be just as tired and predictable as its subject. You’ve got the poor hapless protagonist trapped in an abusive relationship, being tormented by some unknown shadowy evil, she sees visions of the people this figure is murdering, the witless police think it’s her – blah blah blah, stop-me-if-you’ve-heard-this-one etc, etc. I was really disappointed at how generic the whole ordeal was, James Wan is better than this, surely. Aside from a razor sharp opening credit sequence, some nice visuals (as I said before) and a pretty good looking villain – absolutely none of it was keeping the 40 winks at bay.
You might call it unfair to refer to a portrayal of domestic abuse as a cliche, but horror films like this, when they present such scenes, have a tendency to all feel the same – even with completely unrelated creative teams, continuity or franchise. I want to say that the music was alright, removed from the rest of the film it may well stand on its own two feet just fine, but there’s a “sad” scene in which a character confesses to being a child of adoption, but the music was so over-the-top that my reaction consisted more of circus laughter than intrigue or investment. “Disappointed” is definitely the word I would use, unoriginality prevailed so much that Malignant found itself committing the ultimate bad movie sin: being boring enough to make me start thinking of my commitments in the outside world.
THEN, something… happens…
I don’t want to spoil anything now, because, despite everything I have just said, Malignant is a film I’m actually going to recommend! Stay with me and I will explain: after pushing on through any and all hardships I found with the film, we come to the third act, and the story reveals something to us. I will reveal the presence of a twist as we enter Malignant’s final 20 minutes – the kind that completely rewrites everything that came before and puts almost all of its annoying dangling threads into rock solid perspective. Problems I found with the story telling were suddenly slotted perfectly into place like finally finding a missing jigsaw piece, add that to the fact that this twist is so absolutely absurd, ridiculous and off-the-wall doolally bonkers, that I instantly began having fun like the rest of the film never happened.
It’s not good because I think this twist is some kind of uniquely brilliant piece of fiction – it’s not (although it does do a great job at filling in a helluva lot of gaps), but because it’s INSANE. The film changes gear from a dull generic horror that anyone could’ve made – into a laugh-out-loud rollercoaster of enjoyable silly carnage more abruptly than a seagull’s decision to shit on an expensive car. I stopped snoring and began laughing, practically cheering, at the sheer lunacy the film broke into. It was already stupid, but now it was embracing it, I couldn’t believe it; most comedies aren’t this much fun! I want to go into detail so badly but I won’t, all I can do is say that the last 20 minutes are worth recommending the whole film for, I was more entertained than a stupid kid setting fire to something innocent like his sister’s dollhouse.
Is Malignant a bad film? Well, kind of, yes. The first two thirds are generic, uninteresting and badly acted, but the third act goes so outrageously bombastic and daft that it defies belief, and I ended up having a good time with it. So there you go, I highly recommend you watch it, but be ready to have to wade through some slow bullshit before you get to a particularly juicy finale that proves one thing: stupid doesn’t have to mean bad, just like what Wan proved with Aquaman, stupid can be just another tone to harness, regardless of a good or bad outcome – it all depends on execution.