Malignant ★★★★

(Side note: shoutout to the guy who walked into my 11pm screening on his own, midway through the showing. I want to feel whatever he felt.)

If James Wan’s entire filmography up to this point has seen careful selection and application from his wide array of genre influences, from crime thriller to haunted house to gonzo blockbuster, Malignant is the whole fucking menu. Wan gods all out with murder scenes shot and lit like classic Argento/Bava esque giallo, plot elements of psychological identity horror, a puzzling cat and mouse crime thriller, high octane action fight scenes and, the cherry on top, a body horror twist pulled straight from classic Gordon and Yuzna.

It is truly a movie that throws everything but the kitchen sink, and it doesn’t all entirely coalesce. The narrative for most of the first third is very clunkily laid out. Not unlike its heavy giallo influences there’s certainly some rough edges in its gender politics (ranging from some pretty grotesque gay prison rape stereotypes to a handling of domestic violence that is ignorant-yet-well intentioned at best, and just carelessly dismissive at worst). But at the same time, Malignant is the kind of time at the movies that’s just... so good. An all out splatter, all out horror, shot with terrific panache and riddled with Wan’s usual flair for crowd pleasing edge of your seat thrills.

It is intense and keeps you guessing, and is topped off by a genuinely batshit final twist that’s one of the most thrilling things I’ve seen in a movie theatre in years. Malignant is messily imperfect but also kind of glorious for just how much it’s doing, and how strongly it pulls itself off in such entertaining fashion.

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