‘Malicious’ Criticism: A Hilarious Take on Horror | Arts


Need something other than “Halloweentown” to kick off your October? James Wan’s crime horror “Malignant” is a well-produced mix of gore, murder at the source, and science gone horribly wrong. What the film lacks in terms of wit and dialogue – especially when it comes to the final scenes – it makes up for with some thrilling twists and commendable special effects.

Wan is best known for his work in the horror genre, with films like “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”. After a short hiatus from the genre, where he has directed action films like “Furious 7” and “Aquaman,” Wan announced that “Malignant” will not only mark his return to horror, but an experience that offers genre twists to modern fans. Introducing telenovela-level drama and perhaps unintentional comedy into an otherwise classic horror film was certainly a risk, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. A viewer’s response will depend on what they expect.

The film opens with a sci-fi cliché: Scientists and doctors in a shady laboratory are attacked and murdered by a failed experiment. The so-called doctors do not have all the seriousness of typical “secret scientists” and are killed in a dramatized and scandalous manner typical of a ’90s horror parody. The remaining doctors take back control of their patient Gabriel (Ray Chase) and deliver the unironic “time to kill the cancer” line straight into the camera – of course, not until Gabriel has sworn to “kill them all.”

A few shots later, we meet main character Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant woman in an abusive relationship who fears another miscarriage. Things move quickly and within seconds her husband Derek (Jake Abel) attacks her, causing her to bleed from the back of her head. Things then get even scarier when we meet the hairy, twisted killer who swoops down on the young couple – snapping Derek’s neck and sending Madison back into the air. And from there, things go pretty much as you’d expect: investigation, murder, fear of the jump, another fear of the jump, more investigation, no more murder.

Unlike Madison’s traumatic experiences, cops at work are again characterized by the hapless, dramatized torch used to portray mad scientists. Awkward flirting, sucking lollipops as they set up the case boards, lead investigator Detective Kekoa Sha (George Young) passing Madison’s sister – it all comes straight from a bad romantic comedy. The real comedy, however, doesn’t come from outdated sex jokes, but rather watching our deranged and distorted killer Gabriel stepping backwards on his victims. Now it’s understood that the bloody and murderous furball that is Gabriel is meant to be the big bad, our creepy, creepy skeleton lurking in the dark. Call it Gen Z’s broken humor, but there was something so crazy about seeing the central villain crawl through small doors and do crazy backward parkour out of the fire escape stairs in a police chase. Intentional or not, for a true fan of gore and terror, these moments were just too funny to be scary. But who said a chuckle in your psycho-killer movie was bad?

The only part of that movie that was truly disappointing was its ending, where Madison’s previously dark and laconic character suddenly becomes powerful, chatty, and cheesy. While the build-up of tension is captivating, the plot unfolds satisfactorily, and the ending happy, the main character transforming from Damsel in Distress to Wonder Woman in five minutes is poorly executed. The ending can only be described as a rush of work to come up with a happy but totally unsatisfying ending. And here’s the unironic line for the third time – “it’s time to eliminate cancer”. You understand ? Smart? Cancer, right?

Beyond that blunder, however, the film is remarkably well done. A round of applause goes to the special effects team; from Gabriel’s bloodied, reshaped face to the creation of liquefied CGI walls that surround the crippled Madison as the shot wraps around her, they go beyond. And despite how hilarious Gabriel’s hobbles were to watch, we must salute the efforts of Wan’s team – especially contortionist Marina Mazepa, who succeeds in battles royals both indiscriminately and backwards. As funny as they were sometimes, the skill required was evident.

Wan’s execution is solid for the last ten minutes, and he has delivered on his promise to make “Malignant” a lot more fun and unique compared to conventional horror movies today. If you go into this movie hoping to be afraid of your socks, you will be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a frosty, sometimes funny, sci-fi-inspired thriller, go ahead and take your seat.

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