Malignant

Malignant ★★★★½

You may not have heard about this but a while ago, Martin Scorsese likened Marvel movies to "theme park rides" rather than cinema. A lot of very stupid people were annoyed at this statement. To me though, what annoyed me was not the intent behind the statement, but the specific metaphor he chose. Of course what Scorsese is criticizing in that full quote is the view of cinema as nothing more than a way of furthering a brand and making money by the people at the top. The idea that you can just pump out the most bland, algorithm-driven, artless slurry imaginable as long as you have a recognizable IP, you'll still be swimming in cash, which is all that matters. And he's completely, undisputedly, 1000% objectively correct and anyone who disagrees is either a dullard with a Marvel stan account or a millionaire director currently doing a press tour for their own superhero movie. But, while I'd have a hard time calling Marvel movies "cinema", I have no doubt in my mind that "theme park ride movies" absolutely are.

A great theme park ride is a fine-tuned, expertly crafted visceral experience. It’s no coincidence that so many great movies are described as "rollercoasters," because rollercoasters fucking rule! Marvel films feel less like theme park rides and more like Disneyland parades: they're extremely frequent, mostly dull, the exact same every single time, and only exist for kids to point and go "That's Spider-man over there! Look, it's Spider-man!" Many of my favourites in genres that are focused on a specific visceral response from audiences like action, horror or even comedy are more similar to a great theme park ride than they are something like Citizen Kane or fuckin Seventh Seal. Audiences (mostly) don't show up to a horror movie to be moved, or intellectually stimulated or any of that boring shit. They show up to be fucking scared, to get taken on a ride and be shown something insane. After all, cinema basically started as a sideshow attraction. People would be ushered into a tent by some carny and pay to see something they had never seen before. Melies would make 2 minute films that were just a guy pulling off his head or fighting the devil. I see more of that spirit in Malignant than I do in any feature Scorsese has ever made, even the one literally about Melies.

Malignant is a theme park ride based on the concept of horror. The first hour is like if someone asked you to imagine a ‘horror movie’ in your head without any further prompts. It's got everything: fog, a ridiculously creepy house, flickering lights, abandoned asylums, killer in black gloves with a special weapon, nightmares that may or may not be real, possession, gore, jumpscares, a woman suffering, evil child, the call coming from inside the house, lightning strikes to reveal someone in the room, there are just so many tropes and it revels in them all. It pulls from giallo, DePalma, Raimi, Hitchcock, J-horror, slashers, found footage and haunted house movies while adding its own unique fucking batshit twist that makes the third act one of the most incredible experiences I've had watching a movie this year. I was rocking back and forth with excitement, pumping my arms into the air, involuntarily yelling, laughing hysterically, getting up and pacing around. It's just an incredibly stupid and brilliant movie. Wan is a fucking master. I feel like an asshole for not watching any of those Conjuring or Insidious movies now. Will definitely be doing that.

There are definitely "themes" here, taking back your life from past trauma and abuse and the like, the standard stuff that it feels like 90% of movies are about now. But lets be real here, no one's coming out of this movie empowered nor will any thoughts be provoked, and I don't really feel like that was ever Wan's intention. They will, however, be fucking entertained. So many wonderful touches in the filmmaking, so many creative takes on tried and true horror clichés, so many perfectly executed set pieces. Pure cinema. A ride. One of my favourite movies of the year.

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