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With: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Mckenna Grace, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jake Abel, Ingrid Bisu, Zoe Bell
Written by: Akela Cooper, based on a story by James Wan, Ingrid Bisu, Akela Cooper
Directed by: James Wan
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language
Running Time: 111
Date: 09/10/2021

Malignant (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sibling Blade

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Thanks to director James Wan's exhilarating directorial style and a fresh, twisted take, this over-the-top, sometimes silly Frankenstein-like patchwork of old horror movie ideas becomes demented fun.

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is pregnant after three miscarriages. One day, her abusive husband loses his temper slams her up against a wall. That night a monster appears in the house, kills the husband, and sends Madison to the hospital, where she loses the baby. Her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) visits and wants to help, and police detectives Kekoa Shaw (George Young) and Regina Moss (Michole Briana White) try to solve the murder, with little to go on.

Soon, Madison begins having visions of other murders, as if she were transported right to the scene of the crime, where she can see, but can't move. As the bodies pile up, the clues begin to point to Madison's past, before she was adopted by Sydney's parents, a time that Madison cannot remember...

It's not long before Malignant begins to recall old-time VHS video favorites like Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973) and Frank Henenlotter's Basket Case (1982), as well as any other number of supernatural slashers or terrifying tales of imaginary friends (and even a nod to old "women-in-prison" movies). The monster's long, stringy hair, even resembles the locks on the killers from The Ring and The Grudge films. But never fear: Wan, who cooked up the original story with screenwriter Akela Cooper and his wife, actor Ingrid Bisu (who appears in a small, delightful role as forensic technician "Winnie"), has a new idea.

Then there are Wan's signature touches behind the camera. Like the late, great Wes Craven, he knows precisely how to use three-dimensional space, especially corners and hallways and stairways and nooks and crannies, for maximum scary effect.

With the extra-gory Malignant, he goes big, with fluid, kinetic cameras zooming overhead, taking in an entire floor plan, and then moving up to creepy attics, to a sinister abandoned hospital, and down to secret underground tunnels below Seattle. These corridors, lit with beams of light sneaking between broken bricks, are filled with surprises, and anything could be hidden anywhere.

This is the kind of movie that easily makes you forgive its slip-ups (why does the killer zip around like a parkour practitioner?), and embrace its whole-hearted enthusiasm.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release looks and sounds superb, with many different language and audio description tracks in addition to a crisp 5.1 track, and optional subtitles. The only extra is a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that contains some on-set footage and interviews with director Wan. Recommended.

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