Warner Brothers sent me a copy of James Wan’s new film to take a look at. I’ll be honest, I like Wan’s work. I like that he takes chances with his craft, while also paying homage, and nodding to the influences that helped shape him.
In his new feature, Malignant, which is now available on blu-ray and DVD from Warner Canada, he returns to the horror genre, and delivers a tale that feels equal parts nod to the De Palma psycho-thrillers of the late 70s and 80s and horror films of all genres.
Because of the way Wan and his creative team dole out his story, not to mention making use of the negative space of the frame, and playing with tropes of the genre, there is mystery at work throughout the tale, and we’re not quite sure if we’re being introduced to something supernatural, or a horrifying variation on the human monster.
Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) is pregnant, and in an abusive relationship, after a physical altercation, the police arrive to discover Maddison has had a miscarriage, and her husband is dead – which makes her the most likely suspect in his death.
She swears on her innocence, even as a head wound on the back of her skull seemingly refuses to heal, perhaps creating a connection with whomever, whatever, is killing people from Madison’s past, and showing it to her in visions.
No one is safe, as Sydney (Maddie Hasson), Maddie’s sister, tries to discover what is happening, alongside two investigating detectives, who, currently, like Maddie for the crimes. But as Sydney and the viewer delve into Madison’s past, we learn the horrifying truth of her life, and the things that happen in it.
Some of the dialogue feels a little ‘b-movie,’ but that could be argued as intentional, considering the genre, and the nods being made, but sometimes, consequently, some of it doesn’t land as well as it should.
Still, it has some fun sequences, has a cool idea at its center (though there’s a Philosopher’s Stone joke that was just begging to be made), and features two sequences that just show some fantastic camerawork; one is an action sequence near the climax of the film, and is another done with a spider-cam tracking along the top of the studio on which the set for Maddison’s house was belt – it follows her through the house, looking down on her actions from above as panic seizes her.
Wan is an exciting director and writer, so fans will want to check out the latest entry in his work, and though there’s a lack of extras on the blu-ray, a fifteen minute featurette about the film’s making, it looks and sounds great, shows a writer/director not afraid to revisit a genre while playing with the rules and expectations it sets.
Malignant is available now on blu-ray and DVD from Warner Brothers!