PG Score: 5.75/10
Malignant was released in theaters on 9/10/21 and is available for streaming on HBO Max
Malignant is the epitome of a mixed bag. Its shallow characters, shoddy dialogue, and lackluster acting diminish the unique premise and superb special effects.
The best scenes of the gruesome outing come at the hands of the visual department. Director of Photography Michael Burgess captures the sinister tone throughout with appropriately gloomy lighting, especially during the frequent depictions of brutality. Wan (The Conjuring and Saw) trades the supernatural terror found in some of his previous projects for full-fledged body horror this time around. While the movie is not particularly scary, he wholly commits to the hard-R rating. Each sequence of slaying is more violent than the last, and by the time Malignant finishes spreading through the gory climax, the body count is staggering. The blood-soaked ballets are well-choreographed, impressive in scale, and most importantly, showcase the antagonist’s savage nature. The effective cinematography makes the narrative payoff in the final act that much more potent.
Unfortunately, a laundry list of shortcomings hampers the acclaimed filmmaker’s original story. The most egregious offender is the subpar writing. Dull conversations between uninteresting characters plague the flawed screenplay. To compound the problem, the acting is atrocious across the board. Wallis is alarmingly uninspiring as the protagonist. Swinging wildly from bland to melodramatic, her acting never finds the right rhythm. The supporting cast is even more disappointing. Evidenced by a string of phoned-in performances, it gives the impression that everyone involved was just in it for a paycheck.
To make matters worse, the pacing is erratic. Malignant stalls several times in between jumping from one contrived plot point to the next. There are too many occasions where an event occurs in an all too convenient fashion solely to advance the storyline. If that were not enough, the jarring music becomes incessant long before the credits roll. The peculiar soundtrack is completely out of place, which ironically feels fitting given the movie’s aforementioned blunders. The unintended bright side of all these drawbacks is they are good for the occasional laugh.
While the shocking visuals and satisfying set pieces certainly make an impression, a tighter script with better characters would have gone a long way. James Wan performs an uneven operation, but the graphic thrills in Malignant warrant a closer look.
PG Score: 5.75/10