Malignant


Sweet dreams.

(2021) Horror (New Line) Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louise Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Amir AboulEla, Mercedes Colon, Ingrid Bisu, Ruben Pla, Jon Lee Brody, Paula Marshall, Zoe Bell, Dan Ramos, Shaunte Johnson, Natallia Safran. Directed by James Wan

 

For those who love horror movies, James Wan is a name that is spoken with reverence. He is responsible for three of the most successful – and influential – franchises of modern horror; Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. Of late his time has been spent branching out into big-budget action and superhero movies, but in between Aquaman installments he found time to return to the place where his heart really is.

Maddie (Wallis) has had a lot to deal with in her life. Adopted early on, she has put up with an abusive husband (Abel) and numerous miscarriages. After yet another unwarranted assault by her husband, she locks herself in her room and falls asleep. When she wakes up, he has been brutally murdered by someone with nearly superhuman strength. The detectives assigned to the case, the improbably-named Kekoa Shaw (Young) and the Wanda Sykes-channeling Regina Moss (White), are sympathetic but they are also dealing with some other murders in the Seattle area, including two retired doctors (McKenzie, Clemonson).

The trouble is that Maddie has been having vivid visions of the murders as they are happening. Her adopted sister Sydney (Hasson) is providing moral support, as well as physical care for the battered woman, but the more awful carnage that Maddie sees, the more she realizes that the killer – a spectral being calling himself Gabriel – has a deep and disturbing connection to her own past.

While it is good to see Wan back in the genre that he has been such an integral part of for decades, this isn’t his best work. The good news is that even the lesser entries in his filmography are still worth seeing. While Gabriel is unlikely to enter the pantheon of horror movie icons like Freddie Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Chucky – or even Jigsaw – his supernatural strength and control of electricity (he communicates through electronic devices like radios, cell phones and loudspeakers) he is a formidable opponent. He doesn’t have the personality to be truly memorable, but the performances – when he makes his emergence in the latter half of the film is truly spectacular – but he suffices.

Wallis, who has worked in Wan’s universe in Annabelle, is also not quite memorable as Madison which is largely a fault of the writing. Faring better is Maddie Hasson as Sydney, providing occasional comic relief but just showing a bit more energy than Wallis. What’s truly memorable about the movie, though, are the technical aspects. There are some set pieces near the end that are as good as any that have been filmed for a horror movie, particularly one set in a holding cell. The gore is spectacularly done and effects, most of which are practical, well-integrated. Watching Madison’s reality melt into her vision is particularly nifty.

There are a fair number of odd plot choices, which is not uncommon for movies like this and which generally can be overlooked, but one thing that can’t is that the movie is paced a little too slowly for the first two thirds. Madison and Sydney spend a ton of time looking at case files and doing the kind of exposition that have people reaching for the fast-forward button. One thing that the script gets absolutely right is the reveal of Gabriel and who he is; it’s a knockout. Eliminate some of the research scenes and you would have a classic here. Even as is, this is an entertaining movie that is going to leave most horror buffs with a smile on their faces.

REASONS TO SEE: Terrific gore and special effects with some cringe-inducing body movements.
REASONS TO AVOID: Some may find the pace a bit too slow.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity and lots of violence – much of it bloody and disturbing.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Three separate people play various aspects of Gabriel; Ray Chase supplies the voice, (no spoiler) the body, and Marina Mazepa does the contortion effects.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: HBO Max (through October 10)
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/22/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 76% positive reviews; Metacritic: 50/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Basket Case
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
The Magnificent Meyersons

New Releases for the Week of September 10, 2021


MALIGNANT

(New Line) Annabelle Wallis, Madison Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel. Directed by James Wan

A woman is having terrifying visions of grisly murders, but her fear is turbocharged when she discovers that her visions are actually happening.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language)

The Card Counter

(Focus) Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe. The latest from legendary director Paul Schrader concerns a former military interrogator turned compulsive gambler who is haunted by the decisions of his past.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for some disturbing violence, graphic nudity, language and brief sexuality)

Catch the Bullet

(Lionsgate) Peter Facinelli, Tom Skerritt, Jay Pickett, Gattin Griffith. A U.S. Marshall returns home to discover his father sick and his son kidnapped by an outlaw. Forming a posse with a trigger-happy deputy and a stoic tracker, they head out into Indian territory where the danger will increase exponentially.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Western
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for some violence)

Dogs

(Dekanalog) Dragos Bucur, Gheorghe Visu, Vlad Ivanov, Costel Cascavl. In this Romanian thriller, a man inherits land from his Uncle and decides to sell it off. This doesn’t sit well with the criminals who are squatting on that land, and the man must decide whether to cut and run, or stay and fight.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Queenpins

(STX) Kristin Bell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Vince Vaughn, Paul Walter Hauser. Based on actual events, a pair of coupon-clipping moms get involved in a scam of counterfeit coupons that are costing mega-corporations millions. Chased by a U.S. Postal Inspector and a hapless grocery store chain loss prevention officer, they make millions while helping fellow shoppers save on their grocery bills, blurring the line between who the real criminals are.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Cinemark Lakeland Square, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk
Rating: R (for language throughout)

Show Me the Father

(Affirm) Eddie George, Tony Evans, Stephen Kendrick, Sherman Smith. A faith-based documentary on the role of fathers in our American society, and how their role reflects our relationship with God.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG (for thematic material)

Small Engine Repair

(Vertical) Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Ciara Bravo, John Pollano. Three lifelong friends gather for a night of drinking and bonding, unaware that one of them will ask the others to do a favor for his brash young daughter whom they all adore, a favor that will send their lives spinning out of control.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16 Melbourne, AMC Disney Springs, CMX Plaza Café Orlando
Rating: R (for pervasive language, crude sexual content, strong violence, a sexual assault, and drug use)

Thalaivi

(Zee) Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy, Bhagyashree, Madhoo. The story of East Indian actress turned politician J. Jayalalithaa who served six terms as Prime Minister of Tamil Nadu.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks
Rating: NR

We Need to Do Something

(IFC Midnight) Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis. When taking shelter from a strange and violent storm, a family becomes threatened by horrors they may have brought in with them.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Enzian
Rating: NR

Wildland

(Film Movement) Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove. After her mom is killed in a car accident, a teenage girl moves in with her aunt and two sons. They seem a loving family, but they lead a criminal life. When an unforeseen murder puts the family under scrutiny, they are forced to decide how far they’ll go to protect one another.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Blood Brothers: Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (Thursday)
Chompy and the Girls
(Tuesday)
Dating & New York
Detainee 001
Hood River
The Influencer
(Tuesday)
Nightbooks
(Wednesday)
Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou
(Tuesday)
Straight Outta Nowhere
(Tuesday)
The Voyeurs

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

The Card Counter
Dating & New York
Hood River
The Influencer
Malignant