Malignant ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I've got a very love/hate relationship with James Wan. I believe he's talented as fuck, but that the only thing that prevents him from truly knocking it out of the park is his tendency to not avoid his worst impulses. I always point to a scene from the Conjuring 2 as a summation of this point which is the big scare scene with Vera Farmiga and the nun painting. The buildup of that scene is fantastic, creepy, and suspenseful. When it comes time to blow off all of this built up pressure though, we get a goofy Marilyn Manson lookalike running at the camera, making the goofiest "scary" face possible.

Along with that, the visual direction and sound design in those big jumps are usually way too over the top. This, along with a cheese factor that's prevalent in many of his flicks, has prevented him from being one of the modern horror greats in my mind.

I doubt he would care much though about my opinion. He's possibly the biggest name in horror these days. His most popular work, The Conjuring, is the highlight for me as well, despite it not being able to resist the falling on its face streak for me. The opening act is one I hold up fairly high. It's scary as hell and basically as good as it gets for mainstream contemporary horror. So, I'm always going to be there for one of his new films.

Malignant is interesting compared to his other horror work. It's like he combines his supernatural toolset with what he's learned making action films and applied it to an old school exploitation backdrop. What it lacks in his greatest strength (the buildup and biting nails suspense) it makes up for in pure entertainment. I was very amused early on just how often I was thinking, "what the fuck is happening?" Piecing together the various clues was half the fun. One of those thoughts eventually was, "is it a conjoined twin?" I got very excited once that seemed to be the case since I was basically getting a take on a modern day Basket Case movie. It's beautifully batshit. I absolutely love the premise.

I'm not completely sold on the action aspects. It may have went too far for me here, but outside of a weird moment or two with some floaty CGI, the action is well directed. Just to reiterate that, I'm all aboard the carnage of the final act, but don't know if the modern action choreography and direction served the film well. I would have also liked one more scene just to tidy up the ending a bit more as it seemed too abrupt.

As it stands though, it's probably my favorite James Wan flick.