I love horror, in part, because of the adrenaline jolt I get from it. It’s my expectation and desire going in, and it was with anticipation of such that I went to see Malignant with my friend Caroline yesterday. If I fully watched the trailer beforehand, I didn’t really remember it, so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the film was polarizing, and I guess the most gratifying thing about my viewing experience was that I left the theater knowing why.
That sounds dismissive and harsh, I know. It’s probably unfair, because I didn’t hate Malignant. It just wasn’t a satisfying watch for me.
Malignant is difficult to pin down. It’s a vaguely Giallo-flavored horror that I viewed more as a fun action movie with a twist of fantasy with horror elements, specifically body horror. It’s like a superhero movie without a superhero, but there’s a supervillain with super powers, straight out of a comic book. It’s a creature-feature. And now I’m afraid I may have divulged too much in my “spoiler-free” reaction to this film, so I’ll stop with this line of musing.
Allow me to say, though, that I find it interesting that Venom: Let There Be Carnage was one of the trailers that prefaced the movie. Trailers in movie theaters seem to be selected, generally, from the same (or similar) pool as the featured film. Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a supervillain movie. To be a true opening act for Malignant, though, the superhero/villain trailer would’ve come from the gritty, dark DC universe rather than from the more family-friendly Marvel universe, in my opinion.
Yes. I can totally see the villain in Malignant in a DC universe picture, and in that context, I love it. I’m a huge DC Comics fan.
But I digress.
Malignant, now: James Wan (director) wanted to do something different within the horrorsphere, and I think it’s worth mentioning that he’d recently come off of making Aquaman (DC Comics!) before he started on Malignant. If you go in thinking James Wan: Insidious and The Conjuring, you’re going to be disconcerted, if not disappointed. It’s like expecting tea when you take a sip, but ending up with coffee in your mouth, instead. And that was my problem.
Here, I should add that ghostly jump-scare films aren’t the only horror fare that appeal to me. My top-three favorite horror films are the original Halloween (1978), the original Candyman (1992), and The Ring (2002).
Considering it in all fairness, I didn’t think that Malignant was a terrible movie. It just didn’t scare me at all. I never felt spooked or horrified. I never felt tension. I never held my breath. I was never “on the edge of my seat.” It just didn’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t do it for you, though, so definitely check it out if you’re interested. I suspect that Malignant is a film that either works really well for viewers, or it really doesn’t. Like I said, it’s polarizing.
Nor did I dislike everything about the film. For one thing, the supervillain being named for an archangel strikes me as deliciously twisted. The cinematography is outright spectacular, and I love the sound design in Malignant, as well, though both the cinematography and sound design make me think even more of a superhero action flick. There’s a fight scene in which the stunt actress pulls off astonishing feats, but again, in my view, it’s a fight scene that belongs in an action movie more than in a horror movie. I appreciated the dash of gore toward the end, but its context makes it more redolent of the gore you’d find in medical T.V. dramas than in horror films. I thought that the casting choices were good, but the acting in the film seems off in places, and there’s very little in the way of character development.
I’m realizing, unfortunately, that almost all of the positive points I’d coming up with are followed by “but” or “though.” It’s like I almost really like this film as a work of horror. It just wasn’t what I was going in to watch. And I did not realize that I had so much to say about it until I sat down to write this. If I truly didn’t like it, this would not be the case. James Wan indeed created a complex, layered, thought-provoking picture that clearly made me feel some kind of way.
I stand by my recommendation. In fact, now that I know what to expect, I would even consider watching Malignant again. For one thing, I wouldn’t mind taking in that incredible accomplishment of a fight scene a second time.
I’ll leave you with the trailer, if you haven’t seen it already. Enjoy!