BurtonMacReady’s review published on Letterboxd:
When reviewing THE NIGHT HOUSE a couple weeks ago, I said this is what we in the business like to call “spooky.” Well, MALIGNANT is what we like to call “fucking awesome.” I mean, this is fucking awesome. It is the biggest most over the top horror film I’ve seen in a long time. It starts out already cranked to 11 and the highest points of it reach approximately a 327.
Wan has spoken of the film as being influenced by gialli. It ultimately falls somewhat short of qualifying as one but the influence is definitely there. However, what it really recalls is the late 80s/early 90s work of Argento and Fulci when they really went off the rails. This film racks up combos of comically dumb moments where the tongue is so deep in the cheek it might break through and large scale scare sequences so audacious you almost fall out of your chair to ultimately end up in a level of what the fuckery that hasn’t been seen in a major studio film since…SPLICE? This is the type of film where a little over halfway through you feel pretty confident about the twist only to eventually find out you were wrong because no reasonable human being could’ve guessed the reveal (in this way and others, me saying after I saw the trailer that it recalled Argento’s TRAUMA was pretty on point). Wan is perhaps the best modern deployer of CGI because he knows when exactly to use it and likewise, he knows when to sneak in some practical for piercing effect.
And then there’s the score by Joseph Birshara. Forget an Oscar, give him a Nobel prize. I want to shake his hand. Presumably he only had two demands when asking to do the score 1. That he be allowed to do whatever he wants and 2. He’d be given several mountains of cocaine to do it. You can almost hear him kicking in the door of the recording studio to make it. It’s massive strings and cacophonous synths blend in with the various songs of the soundtrack including an electro cover of “Where is My Mind” that plays about 75 times at maximum volume. As much as this film assaults you with its visuals and broadness, it perhaps does even more so with sound. Also just a fantastic killer design all-around (speaking of Fulci, he even bears a bit of a resemblance to my fellow Bostonian Dr. Freudstein).
So yeah just one of the best times I’ve had at the movies this year. In fact if you’re able, I highly highly highly recommend going to see this in a theatre instead of watching at home. Wan cashed his Conjuring franchise chips in and made the type of weirdo flick rarely seen now. I watch stuff like William Brent Bell’s films and Lifetime thrillers because they recall a bygone 80s cheap strangeness but they just can’t match something like this on a technical level. Wan is perhaps the most influential studio horror director of the past 18 years and this is quite possibly his greatest film.