Malignant ★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

Gatekeeping has become a very common practice within film circles. It's the act of saying something along the lines of, "You're not a film fan, unless you like these films". You've heard it before or something similiar if you've spent much time on film forums. Nowhere is it more common than within the horror community. Constant infighting about classic horror vs "elevated horror", legitimacy of jump scares, objectively speaking about what is actually scary vs what isn't (groan), etc. I get it, to a degree. I believe the horror genre is the most malleable category of all of them. It takes so many different shapes (as does fear). It can get vexing trying to define or label it.

I believe the tribalism of who's right and wrong (or who has good "taste" or not) however, to be the main contributor to what's wrong with film discourse right now. People with extensive background in watching or making films condescending to those who don't or those who don't fall in line with the status quo. Wow, you recognized all the references and have seen some Italian horror films , that's awesome. Wow, you know what Giallo means and what's typically involved in those flicks, that's cool too, but you saw fit to denigrate others for not being as hip on the lingo or maybe they think it's all a little silly or they speak in that objective tone that just boils your blood and those little gears start turning in your head and...well...hypothetical reticals start appearing over peoples heads and you start pulling the trigger. Thing is, that doesn't actually make you a better or more legitimate film fan. It makes you an asshole. Passion is great (it's what I'm drawn to here on LB), but this childish shit isn't.

This flick has been turned into another one of those tests to gauge one's credibilty as a horror fan and it just Love or hate the flick all you want, but can we stop with the character assassinations, PLEASE? I know some if you think it's cute or you're "just kidding", but it's withering and poisoning us slowly, but surely. There are so many awesome and beautiful film lovers out there that are brushed aside because they are "too young" to understand how awesome or not something is (ageist bullshit) or don't share that same "dark soul" because they didn't have a life as "twisted and traumatized" as yours. That their pain is less valid (everyone's pain is valid). Or because they're...a...woman? Yeah, that fuckery is still going on in the film discourse and horror writing domain. Decrepit ideologies still rattling around in the psyche of men, like a disease. It's all regressive garbage. Whatever.

Also, artistic intentions are important, but let's not put them on a pedestal like some dogmatic ritual. It breeds myopathy and can stifle conversations. One's own interpretation is far more valuable (and fun) in discourse. Diverse interpretations are dwindling due to this, among other things. Shit, I (and many others seemingly) have forgotten how to talk about this stuff either due to people's hypermoralism, egocentric mindsets or character judgements/attacks. It just shuts down the convo. So yeah, death to the author and all that jazz. Moving on.

I will admit that mainstream horror and I have been on rocky terrain for a long time. Despite the freedom offered by the genre, risks are rarely taken. Dry digital photography, journeyman like writing, stale direction with actors. These things tend to permeate these flicks. I feel I kind of have to leave that overly cynical person in me at the door or I would have hard time making it through most of them. I'm once again glad I did.

I knew the moment I saw the intense divisiveness of this one, I was probably in for an entertaining time. The down the middle split, fuck it or burn it response had me excited. I'm tired of having lukewarm or tepid responses towards horror flicks. I want to be surprised or challenged. And despite my shoulder shrug feelings on Wan, he is always bursting with energy and passion. Give this man a budget and almost absolute freedom and you get crazy stuff like Furious 7 or Aquaman. This stands well above the rest of his filmography in my opinion.

While yes, savvy eyes will see certain plot reveals a mile away. I believe a film shouldn't be harshly penalized for predictability. I know that some people have a difficult time letting themselves be taken by the "magic" of the movies and admittedly, sometimes flicks are a little too proud of their reveals. I get it though, we all view flicks differently and it takes a lot to surprise people these days.

Despite the spoiler tag on this entry, I will not get into plot specifics. Just know that if the first half of this flick isn't doing it for you, give it some time (I was a little fidgety myself during some of cop procedural parts and the nearly 2 hr runtime doesn't entirely justify itself). What it lacks in pacing though, it compensates in bold, gonzo flair. You don't see this kind of stuff in mainstream horror flicks very often.

I liked this (looking foward to a rewatch to cement my feelings), but I get why others wouldn't. It's a brazen, trashy and unapologetic flick and is not made for wide appeal despite it's marketing. The acting decisions will be seen at times to be enigmatic/odd or just straight camp, which it is to me (the husband at the beginning had me rolling). The run time, as previously mentioned, is a little saggy and the female traumasploitation nature of the script could be seen as a tired premise. I'm not however, going to attack others because I think they are too young to understand it or because their edgelord soul doesn't match mine or because I think they are just too "dumb" to grasp it.

I know some of you will make the point that some people don't have the capacity to appreciate things as well as you...ok then. I put it to you that, why is your first reaction to insult that person? I don't see you trying to inform or share your feelings with this person directly. You want people to appreciate this stuff, but you just give them bile when you interact with them. Ask yourself, why do you do that? What is the endgame here? To bully them into liking it? To satiate your already inflated ego? To put them in their place?

Look, I get it, we want people to like and appreciate the things we do with the same level of passion we do. We are afraid the art we love will wither and be forgotten. Conservative attitudes have led to a lot of art being lost or buried and it pisses me off too. That's not what's going on here though. People just didn't like a movie you liked and you threw a tantrum over it. They aren't trying to ban, butcher or destroy it, so get off it. I know these films are precious, like one's own child, to some of you, but this shit's sort of killing us. This applies to both sides too, queue the "stop liking what I don't like" meme.

These superficial, snap judgements just get to me. I get separating/protecting oneself from an acidic part of the community or from people that just aren't on your wavelength, but this shit spawns from just a simple difference of opinion about the tone of a film or one's musical taste. Damn it, you can disagree with people without being a complete heel about it (pretty much summed up this whole bloated mess with one sentence).

Art should bring us closer together and start conversations (this used to be the most exciting part of watching movies, but's fight or fuck). This binary right/wrong, good/bad, tribalistic way of engaging with people that our school system has bludgeoned into us, needs to go. School's out folks. Whatever.

Stay sane and passionate out there you beautiful Earth dwellers.

Watched on HBO Max.

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