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John’s Horror Corner: Malignant (2021), Bughuul meets John Wick in James Wan’s truly wild Upgrade-esque (2018) horror-action movie. [some SPOILERS]

September 20, 2021

MY CALL: This movie begins somewhat confusingly, but rounds its way to a satisfyingly wacky horror-action flick that is way more crazy than expected. MORE MOVIES LIKE Malignant: It’s truly difficult to advise… but I’ve got it! If you like Malignant, you need to see Upgrade (2018)!!!!!

IMDB summary—“Madison (Annabelle Wallis; Annabelle, The Mummy) is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.”

The first half of this movie struck me that writer/director James Wan (Saw, Insidious 1-2, Dead Silence, The Conjuring 1-2) couldn’t decide between an Insidious demon and a slasher as his villain. Instead we seem to have a mash-up of both and I was struggling to get into it. But what it seemed to lack in cohesiveness it more than made up for in style, especially the visually mind-melding transitions from our protagonist’s perspective. Much as the case with the villain, we are left wondering what these trippy transitions mean. Perhaps some sort of psychic connection with the killer or a supernatural premonition.

Reminding me of The Ring’s (2002) rickety, unnerving movement patterns of Samara and the innumerable copycat spirits we’ve seen in movies since, some of the killer’s funky movements almost feel like time-reverse action from Tenet (2020). The awkward movements include high speed crab-walking and almost impossibly odd geometric angles of arm movements during bloody assaults.

Despite being well made, for the longest time I found this movie rather questionable as I feared this wonky, stanky-legged fiend would never provide any explanation for its sprayed-roach skitterbang stylings. Not only that, but I found the “horror” of the film a bit low despite some quick, very violent death scenes. I just didn’t really understand what the heck was going on with whatever the heck this killer was.

However, in the final act we learn what the killer is and it’s actually pretty cool! That doesn’t completely make up for the previous 80 minutes of this film, but it definitely afforded a lot of understanding. Ever still, the reveal was provocatively looney and explained a lot to a weird, satisfying degree. I know that most horror finds its best footing in the last 30 minutes, where filmmakers often blow their budgetary load on monster effects, action and provocative gore. But this shifted into a high-octane gear that I didn’t even know was possible. Like, imagine if you took Sinister’s (2012) Bughuul and dropped him into a John Wick (2014-2022) action sequence. Or, more appropriately, it’s a lot like Upgrade (2018)… but with a more inherently evil entity.

The bone-breaking, head-stomping brutality in the final act was quite appreciated as our brachiating action movie killer skitters like a backwards jangly man (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) executing Matrix choreography between devastating stabbery shenanigans.

Once we are all in on what’s going on, the stunt work and violent bloody action is so much more pleasing… because we understand what’s happening before our eyes. The majority of the finale scenes play out like an incredibly bloody and brutal action movie. Broken bone shards erupt through flesh on multiple occasions and I just kept gasping in happy disbelief at what was transpiring before my incredulous eyes.

Pretty cool, James Wan. Pretty damn cool! Want a second opinion? Here’s another review that says this movie is awesome: CLICK HERE.

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