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(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
I hope that we're all onboard with having seen James Wan's SAW.
Gritty, disturbing, scary, and raw, SAW was James' calling card into a world of cinema where he has grown one franchise after the next. Wan's at a stage where
By Cthulhu's beard!
he no longer makes a movie, he makes a franchise. The movie poster mentions three of them, but their offshoots include the ANNABELLE movies. As of this writing, James also has no less than three separate feature films he's producing that are all filming simultaneously.
James just might become the new Horror master that the fans have been looking for, and he is often partnered with his long time bud, Leigh Wannell. Both have gone on to successfully do their own separate projects.
Onboard with his production company, Atomic Monster, as well as Co-writer, Producer, and Director, MALIGNANT is all in Wan.
MALIGNANT is based on a story by James, his wife and actor Ingrid Bisu (BLOODRAYNE, SLAUGHTER, DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE, THE NUN, THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT) and Akela Cooper (GRIMM [TV], THE 100 [TV], LUKE CAGE [TV], HELL FEST) who also adapted the screenplay.
MALIGNANT begins back in the 1980s with a Doctor Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie: DEEP BLUE SEA, NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES: FROM THE STORIES OF STEPHEN KING [TV], THE 4400 [TV], ALPHA GATEWAY, OCCUPATION, HARMONY, PINE GAP, BLOOM, RECKONING [TV]) who is recording a video. Apparently this hospital is an exclusive, special type: not your usual Bed & Bill brick & mortar scam. She is attempting to get the help of other experts in the field as she is at wits end over her patient, Gabriel.
We soon see what she's talking about. Dr. Weaver is interrupted by one of her collegues. Gabriel is wrecking all manor of havoc and, cryptically, he seems to be feeding off of electricity.
We don't get a good look at Gabriel but he's injured, perhaps killed some of the hospital staff. Shaking in anger, Dr. Weaver says, "It's time to cut out the cancer."
Thus ends the 5 minute opening Gotcha scene.
28 Years Later -
That is one hell of a long time between drinks!
A pregnant woman, Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis: THE STEEL TRAP, GHOST TOWN, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, THE LOST FUTURE, ANNABELLE, MINE, COME AND FIND ME, THE MUMMY , ANNABELLE: CREATION) pulls up to a modest two story Seattle house in an old beater of a Toyota station wagon. Dealing with back pain she makes her way to her bedroom to find her inconsiderate lout of a husband, Derek (Jake Abel: THE LOVELY BONES, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS [all], THE HOST , AN AFFAIR TO DIE FOR, SUPERNATURAL [TV]), watching TV and in no mood for compassion.
He finds an excuse for abusing her, asking why she keeps getting pregnant.
My first thought was, "He doesn't know how she gets pregnant?"
Barring the fact that he may be an utter moron, this could be an interesting turn if Madison's getting pregnant without his help. Kinda sorta like the parthenogenesis in David Cronenberg's THE BROOD. James Wan is known for riffing from the plots of previous works. Writers do it all the time: Haunted Houses, Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie, Alien Invasion, Mad Scientist stories. Even Stephen King does it.
That isn't where James was going with this though and the abusive Derek pushes things too far until Merry Mishaps occur.
The abuse results in Madison losing her baby, Madison's head getting cracked against the bedroom wall, damage to said wall caused by Madison's head, and a dead Derek.
This also spawns an obvious plot hole. From this moment on throughout the days and weeks, Madison is bleeding out the back of her head. The doctors at the hospital have done nothing for it. Madison doesn't take it upon herself to do anything about it. Her sister, Sydney Lake (Maddie Hasson: TWISTED [TV], WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS, IMPULSE [TV], MR. MERCEDES [TV]) doesn't try to get Madison to go back and have her bleeding head wound tended and stitched - and I mean the blood loss is copious.
Because of Derek's death, naturally the police come calling. Yet, despite the fact that Madison is clearly bleeding from her head and down the back of her clothes - every single day - visit after visit, for all the suspicious questioning and squinty stink eye detective Regina Moss (Michole Briana White: VOLCANO, CONVICT 762) is giving her, not her and nobody else ever says, "God damn, woman! You really need a doctor to look at that bloody fucking split in the back of your head!"
Unbelievable to a preposterous degree, yet it just never happens! Which makes anything weird in the movie that relates to her endlessly bloody head, head desk thumping obvious.
You didn't see that coming?
She's bleeding like sieve from her god damn head! How the fuck can her sister and everyone else around her be so damn blase about that?
Whew! It's really tough to get past.
One might say, On The Nose.
So when brutal murders start happening in Seattle, and each victim is not only tied to Madison, but Madison herself claims that she somehow, mysteriously, sees the victims being murdered and saw the murderer, the two cops on the case, Regina and her partner, Kekoa Shaw (George Young), don't say, "You're probably hallucinating, what with that big honking head trauma you got going on!"
No, they suspect her of committing the murders. The murders were clearly done by a powerful person, something Madison doesn't appear to be, especially with that head wound making her walk around all woozy.
In fact, we have enough murder victims, and a murder weapon that never rises to the level of making any sense within the logic of the story, that it's time to point out another consistently repeated bit of oddballery.
Someone at home or at work are working in the dark. Actually, everybody in this movie works in the dark even during the day! Often so dark that when they go to do something they put their hands out so they don't run into anything.
I haven't seen a movie this poorly lit since Warner Bros. FEAR DOT COM.
Why? Seattle uses electricity and there are light switches everywhere same as any other buildings in the U.S.
Worse, the victims to be hear a suspicious noise. They are not alone. Someone is in their house, workplace, what have you, with them! So the victims to be... walk right into the darkness, unable to see anything, and all along the way they are calling out, "Who is it?" "Is anybody there?" "Hello?"
One particular victim, after ushering out a tour group and closing up for the night, unplugs all the lights only to hear faint crashing noises behind her in the dark tunnel.
So she walks into the dark tunnel, calling out, "Hello?" and "The tour is over, you have to leave."
Were these people not born and raised on planet earth?
At one point, when a potential victim is terrified for her life and escape and safety is right in front of her, mere steps away, she stops everything to turn all of the lights - behind her - back on.
She is so terrified that her hands are shaking too much to properly plug the lights in, yet instead of running away, she allows whatever is noisely rushing toward her the time it needs to catch her. Why? Apparently those god damn lights take precedence over survival.
Obviously, she becomes a victim.
So MALIGNANT is never scary.
It is professionally made, though. It is polished, slick, and the Slo-Mo cgi melting walls that are repeated to teeth-grinding death are first rate.
The robotic dolly camera movements are smoothly done to digital perfection, calling undue attention to themselves and their commercial ability to slowly spin the movie picture around an actor.
The sets are competently built and we know this for a fact as the robo camera moves all over every joint, joist, and wall divider to make us absolutely certain that we are looking at a clean constructed movie set and not an actual house.
Obviously Gabriel - that thing 30 years ago that caused such a fuss - makes a reappearance and, true to New Line having a hand in this, speaks in a voice that is almost, but not quite, entirely like Freddy Kruger's voice from the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels.
THE RING and THE GRUDGE both make a reference appearance with a monster varmint, head slouching down with black hair over their face.
Warner Bros. contribution was that 5 minute Gotcha opening scene and the credits immediately after, calling to mind the 1990s when the WB was partnered with Dark Castle and making fun Horror movies like GHOST SHIP and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.
Out of the clear blue, and contradicting any reason that the creature's "Weapon" could have had in the first place (outside of the idea that horror franchise human monsters from Leatherface [Chainsaw] to Michael [knives] to Jason [Machete] to Freddy [knife glove] to Pinhead [chain hooks] usually have a personal weapon), the monster becomes a Kung-Fu-style martial arts assassin, able to take out an entire police department of armed officers
MATRIX-STYLE! (thanks again, Warner Bro's.).
But you know, action-packed Super-Villains are never scary regardless of the body count. That's not how Horror works and everyone from creators to audience is onboard with this concept.
So then what's left for MALIGNANT? Push button automation and a patchwork of copy & paste references shot through with huge plot holes basically made this movie.
From beginning to end it comes close to being almost scary, only to have the characters constantly and witlessly do something so stupid it tears you right out of the story.
Like the character who, despite all the mysterious killing and a murderer that seems supernatural in power, decides to drive far away, all by herself, to the abandoned hospital where we last saw Gabriel. She does this at night, and walks through so much dark with only the worst flashlight you ever saw, and spends a bleak evening looking for information on Gabriel, while deep in the hospital basement, and stays there searching despite all of the creepy noises as if someone is moving around behind her in the dark.
Finally, the marketing over MALIGNANT is all about this movie being a Giallo. It's not, though "Giallo" was mentioned once or twice in the closing credits.
Despite everything, including an awful movie trailer that appears to give the whole story away, I wanted to like MALIGNANT. I'm a horror fan! Of Course I want that! This is James Wan after all, who I like! A lot! My theater was showing this early on a small screen and later on one of their largest screens. I waited for the biggest screen and sat there in the center of the sound system, ready for the tsunami of terror to come right out of that massive screen and drown my senses in giddy Horror.
But James was having none of it and all that work, effort, time, and money of making a movie amounts to a big