If I had to describe the horror movie landscape right now I would use one word: crowded. There are endless copycat flicks, remakes and reboots to the point where even the most original of movies feel like they’re borrowing something from the rest of the group.
The tropes and cliches found in these movies are all too familiar to fans of the horror genre, and even those who don’t frequent horror flicks. So when a new horror movie comes out, it poses the question: can this movie do something new?
One of the latest additions to this group, Malignant, came out on Sept. 10 and I can’t say it does anything particularly unique — but everything it does do, it does excellently.
Although the film can be cheesy at times, it’s a wildly entertaining ride that delivers horrors and thrills through a surprisingly original premise.
Directed by horror movie veteran James Wan, Malignant follows the story of a woman who experiences visions of a killer as he murders his victims.
I loved the way the film starts. It gets right into the drama of the story rather than bogging down the viewer with exposition or backstory. I never felt like I was wading through context to get to the good stuff, but rather it was explained through subtle details in the plot.
You can also tell from this fiery start that it’s a cheesy movie. Wan loves to throw in a splash of cliche horror movie dialogue and classic “wind blowing through an open window” moments. It’s easy to spot moments like these, especially with the foreboding soundtrack.
The soundtrack for this movie is wild, but I kind of dig it. Some of the scores are classic horror creep music, but others are techno dance beats, ’80s synth music and at least three renditions of a remixed version of “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies. Combine that with some of the melodramatic dialogue, and I felt that Malignant is able to strike a great balance between terrifying and entertaining.
Wan’s camera work throughout is also excellent at maintaining this balance, as is Annabelle Wallis’ performance. In some scenes, the camera work was smooth and used unconventional angles, making the film more appealing to the eyes. At others, it was shaky and real, dialing up the fear factor and making me feel like I was in the room with them. Wallis also excels in her performance, and her screen presence is enough to make even mundane exposition settings much more entertaining to watch.
All of these elements make the film scary but not too scary — at first. Near the end of the film, the guise of a cheesy horror flick fades away, and Wan hits you with a huge twist. I’m a fan of plot twists, even though many seem easily foretold. But this one got me — and I mean really got me. It’s a twist that you half see coming and half don’t, and once you realize the full picture, Wan wipes away the cinematic cheesiness and fully commits to his horror roots.
I’m — quite embarrassingly — a fan of the morbidly gross horror elements found in movies, and without spoiling too much, Wan delivered on this one. The twist is disgusting, so much so that I was genuinely speechless when I saw it for the first time. It’s eye-grabbing, jarring and revolting, all of which make up a great horror film.
What follows is best described as a bloodbath. The combination of action and gore kept me locked on the screen. What I thought was a relatively cliched horror flick was completely turned on its head. I loved the way it subverted expectations, almost tricking me into a false sense of trust with the movie, before completely flipping the script.
Post-viewing, I wouldn’t rank Malignant as the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. Instead, I would say it’s the perfect movie to watch with a big group of friends. It’s spooky without sending people out of the room, has a couple of silly moments to laugh about and also delivers a huge twist to shock everyone.