James Wan takes you on an unpredictable ride.
A few hours after the movie debuted, it seemed like everyone was talking about Malignant. This new James Wan film takes you on a wild ride, as the story twists and turns at a rapid pace. Based on a screenplay by Akela Cooper, it tells the story of Madison, who is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders. Her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities. Madison teams up with her sister and a cop investigating the murders to uncover the horrific truth about these killings.
There's so much to glean from this film. The screenplay is so much fun and gives each character on screen an intense and interesting voice. Every scene has solid motivations and the structure is electric. It has some of the biggest horror movie reveals of all time, an unrelenting score, and really inventive cinematography.
These are the things we've come to expect from Wan, but it's always great to see them in action.
What Bonkers Lessons Can You Learn from the Insanity that Is Malignant?
Let's get this out of the way up front, a lot of people hated Malignant.
The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are mixed, and I totally understand what people's gripes might be, but I also know how my heart felt watching it. I was leaning into every moment, enjoying the ride. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus reads: "Although Malignant isn't particularly scary, director James Wan's return to horror contains plenty of gory thrills—and a memorably bonkers twist."
So what is there to learn?
Twist the Plot
I mentioned it up top, but it bears repeating, the plot of Malignant is twisty. Without giving anything away, we're on a murder investigation, a look into the supernatural, and a dissection of a family. The script turns these events into huge moments, giving us punchy reveals that end every scene. We may end on a line like "I'm adopted..." which informs the deeper dive into the investigation at hand.
Every scene seems to end on one of these revelations. It keeps us leaning into the narrative and excited for what's next. It also makes the pacing feel rapid. We cannot wait to get the answers we seek.
Another thing I loved about the plot twists is that the movie felt unpredictable. If anything is possible, then you have no idea what will happen next. That allows you to laugh, scare, and entertain your audience.
Choose Gore Wisely
I love a good horror movie, but I do not do well with extreme gore. I'm looking at you, Spiral. What this film did so well was choosing the moments when things should be nasty. Heads splitting open, compound fractures, tumors, necks snapping, all of these moments of gore felt earned and shocking.
There are lots of gross-out moments in this movie, but they all are unique. They are shot with fun angles (so many Dutch angles), have a mix of practical and CG effects, and are earned by the situations the characters find themselves in.
When you think about the gore you're going to add, think about when and why. You can lean into it like this movie does without it feeling gratuitous, and it can feel like part of the story. And still be refreshing!
Use a Pop of Color
I love the cinematography and lighting in this movie. The movie was shot on an ARRI Alexa SXT, Panavision Primo, PVintage, SuperSpeed MKII, and Ultra Speed MKII Lenses.
It looks pristine. They used colored lights a ton, casting reds, blues, yellows, and making each scene pop. This felt so different than traditional horror. Almost like neon-noir. It really changes the expectations of the audience and amps up the tension.
It also showcases Wan's creativity. The colors can lull you into relaxation, like when you see a character in a princess dress or walk into a well-lit room. You never expect horror to be around the corner. Again, emphasizing that anything can happen.
At the end of the day, this is one of the most fun and unique films to come out this year. While it's not going to find awards, it is pleasing audiences and giving newer filmmakers plenty of ideas.
Let us know if you watched it and if you loved it. Or hated it.