Malignant ★★★★

"You've been a bad, bad boy, Gabriel."

Arguments for Malignant either being the very best or absolute worst film of 2021 are equally sound. But, y'know, it's awesome.

About as smart as a bag of rocks (no offense to rocks) and often untidy in various areas of the script (topics and characters range in tactfulness). But virtuoso maniac James Wan knew this, wanted this, embraced this, wholeheartedly committing to the material with a staggering conviction for camp, shlock, and the pure entertainment both imaginable and nigh-unimaginable with a bonkers genre brainchild like this. More terror than strictly horror, Malignant never bargains for its own crazed identity, doubling down as often as narratively possible (but not without purpose) with one grin-inducing sequence after another until a third act twist hurls the plot into a breathless realm of gut-busting bedlam that’ll leave you laughing, gasping, and cheering all at once. My God, it’s glorious; utterly batshit, silly by design, and impeccably crafted. Wan’s creative powers have always been evident from production to production, but his skills—that clear filmic understanding—totally explode on the screen here, producing a frenzied yet meticulous experience that's immediately unforgettable. And with Akela Cooper's appropriately tuned screenplay, based on a story by her, Wan, and Ingrid Bisu, this playground of madness is deliberately the director’s to mine for as much fun and fear as his mind can deliver.

Part giallo-inspired, part John Carpenter, part Frank Henelotter, wholly James Wan. It’s a grab bag of tricks and treats that’s a breeze to enjoy, or even easy to loathe if that’s where your heart truly lies. Personally, I can't recommend Malignant enough, especially with Halloween right around the corner. A totally sincere sendup brimming with filmmaking both new and old that plunges its effect straight into your skull. One helluva bloody good time.

"See? Deep down, you've always known."

P.S. Failed to properly praise Joseph Bishara's potent score and the suitably off-the-wall cinematography by Michael Burgess. Hell, should've mentioned Annabelle Wallis in the lead, too, her performance unraveling in step with this spiraling, madcap tale.

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