Certain names open certain doors. A principle that can be applied to many areas of life and is also used in the field of moving images. James Wan is such a name. In recent years the director has not only created genre milestones such as “SAW” or “The Conjuring”, but has already gained a foothold elsewhere with “Aquaman”, one of the more acceptable excesses of the DC universe. The Malaysian-born filmmaker could probably march into a studio with the craziest idea, someone would want to produce it.
by Cliff Brockerhoff
There is no other way of explaining how “Malignant” made it from the screenplay to the film role. While the stories about the Warren couple or the start of the equally popular Insidious series were still more modern horror films in the classic sense, his latest work is about the blatant opposite that comes to mind. Even the trailer is a bit misleading, tells of an imaginary friend, the protagonist Maddy Persecuted since early childhood and now terrorized into adulthood. When a city-wide series of murders shakes the Seattle area, Maddy is certain that it is Gabriel, so the name of the fantasy friend of yore, is responsible for the atrocities.
James Wan could have made it easy for himself and from now on he could have unpacked the story, which has already been told umpteen times, around an evil presence that takes possession of body and mind, poisoned both and has to be driven out by the charlatan smack. But “Malignant” goes other ways. Paths that seem to weave red threads over and over again, only to be abruptly cut shortly afterwards. For a long time, the story makes little causal sense, starts with a family drama and incorporates typical moments of shock, but at the same time constantly looks as if the next twist is lurking around the corner. Wan skilfully dresses those corners with shadows and shadows that stir curiosity and encourage us to examine every composition in detail. Maybe the resolution is hidden in the darkness?
Yes and no. The film doesn’t make it that easy for its audience. The search for details is a pleasure, but does not lead to the goal – as far as this can be judged after the first inspection. Rather, the film begins to build thought supports through retrospectives or monologues, which afterwards become so massive that they do not allow any further interpretation. This is a shame insofar as the Wan plays with all kinds of topics, but towards the end it limits itself and increasingly slips into generosity. If he had decided on abstraction and offered several ways out, “Malignant” would have had what it takes to be a great surprise. Too many subjunctive, because in the end the circle closes in a way that it has often done. Without points of friction, without ambition and without the possibility of reflecting on what you have seen yourself. Instead, the film emphatically shovels the explanations into the hungry necks of the viewer.
Unnecessary, because purely in terms of the prerequisites, the weird horror hybrid is nothing that should be lost in the crowd. Sure, some effects look very amateurish, but can be explained by certain factors of the action, which are not revealed at this point for spoiler-technical reasons. The created atmosphere is reminiscent of the horror cinema of yesteryear, not least because of the mixing of typical Halloween shock acoustics and a special 80s vibe. The film even leaves the overused jumpscares mostly in the moth box, the intended focus is more on the display and knotting of as many sub-genres as possible than on the forced stimulation of the heart rate. At most, this results from the degree of violence that is quite significant at times, which playfully fits into this insane construct and roughly gives an idea of what James Wan would be capable of – if he were completely released from his imposed shackles.
How crazy is your next film supposed to be? James Wan: YES! “Malignant” is the visualized symbiosis of slasher, supernatural elements and a good portion of 80’s body horror. That doesn’t always harmonize, but at least it is bursting with creativity and offers a welcome change from the typical uniformity that is usually pounded on the back of the head. Jumpscare disciples can conscientiously fit, nostalgics can risk an eyeball.
Images: © Warner Bros.
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