Dustin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well. This kind of sucks 🤷♂️. Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon (entirely possible), but most new horror films leave me cold, and this was no exception.
Before anything else, let me say that I’m not really a James Wan guy. I liked the first Saw movie, and I enjoyed his entry in the Fast & Furious series. Actually, his filmmaking style seems to really fit in a franchise like that: way over the top, big, cheesy, dumb. It worked there. That’s about it for me though, didn’t like Insidious and The Conjuring did little for me.
A lot has been made about Malignant’s 80’s influences, and while they are obvious to long time horror nerds, that didn’t really bother me. Cribbing ideas from other movies or books, or whatever is fine, hell it’s the nature of things. What bothers me is the execution.
The CGI is heavy here, which is no surprise in a modern movie of any kind, but I found it incredibly distracting, and it took me out of the story every time the room would start to warp and transform. I get why they do it, but it’s very in your face. For an example of a recent horror film using CGI in a much more tasteful way, check out The Night House, where it gets it’s idea across without being so showy.
Also, I hate to say it, but I thought most of the acting was pretty poor. I’ll chalk this up to the directing, and let these performers off the hook, but it was very cheesy and not believable to me at any point really. Just for contrast, compare Toni Collette’s performance in Hereditary to the lead in this film. Worlds of difference, but I’m probably being unfair.
Another issue is that I can’t really tell if Wan is being so campy on purpose or not. He seems to want the audience to take the film seriously at times, but then undermines things with very goofy dialogue and strange stylistic choices. Maybe I’m the dummy who isn’t in on the joke, and I’ll admit that mixing things up tonally can be a very difficult balance to strike, but for me, he did not achieve it, if that’s what he was even going for.
And then we have the John Wick action sequences. I’ll admit the bigger one late in the film is kind of fun in and of itself, but in the context of this movie? Doesn’t fit. Doesn’t play. In a Fast and Furious movie? Hell yes.
The modern horror films I do like tend to feel smaller and more minimalist, and go for atmospherics more than bombast, so I guess Wan just doesn’t make my flavour, and that’s ok. Plenty of people seem to love it, and they’re welcome to it. I’ll stick with Basketcase.