Written By: Marcus Munoz
James Wan Conjures Up Another Successful Scare
Director James Wan returns to the big *small* screen with a new addition to his long list of horror movie contributions. Malignant is like nothing we’ve seen in recent years, and it paints a very clear picture that horror is NOT DEAD, but rather restored with this fresh take on spook where camp meets gore.
What is Camp?
At this point you might be asking...what is CAMP? No, it has nothing to do with Camp Crystal Lake or Sleepaway Camp. The term “Camp” is a style within the horror movie genre that defines a more comedic, “colorful” and borderline unrealistic (if you can believe it) depiction of gore and spook. Camp became popularized in the late 80’s/early 90’s when classic horror movies started to come out with sequels or had comedic adaptations re: Leprechaun franchise. Other examples include Freddy vs. Jason, Krampus and Drag Me to Hell. Often misunderstood as “lazy gory satire”, Camp has provided some of the most memeable and messed up horror movie content on the internet. What newer fans often overlook is that the mode of camp can provide a unique and nuanced approach to horror that allows fans to experience EXTREME versions of gore while weaving into comedic elements to give more fluidity to the film.
Horror Nuance & Homage
Even though Malignant was a big WTF kind of experience – it has a lot going for it, from paying homage to classic horror tropes to the illustrative references to the early work of Giallo horror films. In the opening act of the movie, it feels like a trip down memory lane with how bad (and I mean that literally) everything is scripted/played out. It’s like when I used to visit Blockbuster on a Friday night and grabbed the first random horror movie I saw that went STRAIGHT to DVD *bad*. At the end of the day, Malignant knows it’s silly, and makes no apologies for doing so. I would say most non-horror fans would probably hate this type of movie for its lunacy – but honestly, that’s apart of the genre – cooky and nonsensical.
The return of Anabelle Wallace! After coming off the Anabelle franchise, I didn’t expect for her to hop on another horror project so quickly – let alone one this whacky flick from James Wan. TBH I think she was the best part of the film and reminded me that we need more horror mainstays like Via Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. Even though the character of Gabriel was played by another actor, the synergy and consciousness of how present Gabriel was in relation to Emily/Madison was electric – almost like Gabriel was in every scene with her.
The camera work for this movie was something special. It had everything from quick wide shots to arial run-throughs. There‘s nothing better than having multiple angels in a horror flick – it really keeps the viewers on their toes on what’s happening in the scene.
Like I said, this movie is WILD. Trying to pay attention to what’s going on while at the same time the score is working to purposely disorient the viewer by adding mismatched music to certain scenes or randomly introducing high octane melodies – its madness, but the right kind of it.
I’m usually very good at predicting the “big twist” in movie plots, almost immediately in some instances. For Malignant I was able to predict the obvious Emily May/Madison abducted mom situation. What I never saw coming was Gabriel living inside of Madison’s skull! That’s right, SKULL. The reveal during the police station massacre BLEW ME AWAY – I had to pause.
This movie can be for everyone because it is intentionally perfectly imperfect. It doesn’t attempt to be some intellectual social dilemma that a lot of horror movies today are becoming, nor does it pretend to be some nostalgic remake of a slasher redone 1000x over. It’s a stand-alone bloody mess of a film and I absolutely ADORE IT. James Wan does it again. I hope Malignant will be the catalyst for other film studios to take risks with odd horror movie concepts as it makes for a more diverse viewer experience in the end.