Malignant (2021): What the…What?

It isn’t news that James Wan is a notably formidable presence in the horror world. While I generally enjoy (most of) his work, I can’t say that I predicted what Malignant would end up being.

If you’re reading this than you must know me or have at least have an indication (from my site name alone) that I’m someone who enjoys being surprised in horror and in the weird. Well, I’m happy to say that all three of these words would come up in a thought bubble when referring to this film. This is a very weird, surprising, horror film.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

After a horribly traumatic event Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins seeing strange hallucinations, as if she is there, with people being murdered. The who and what of these visions is eventually explained, but it has her digging into her own past, and questioning reality.

Told in a narrative design that upends as much as it does stall for answers, Malignant takes its time with clarity and then explodes into what I can only describe as the right kind of outrageousness.

It’s a film that isn’t afraid to take risks and doesn’t mind getting encompassed by the strange. The third act is really where it comes to life in absurd wild fashion providing a twist that is really unexpected.

I found myself actually laughing at the first scene where the twist is revealed, both out of surprise and also entertainment. It’s wild in its delivery, but it’s honestly what saved the movie for me. I often wondered after if I wished I could have known early on, but it wouldn’t have been as shocking if I had.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Malignant takes on an often dream-like, nearly trippy quality, and plays out some pretty impressive visuals that cascade over even the least flattering parts of the script. Some of the dialogue and by extension, acting, seems a bit off, but one wonders if that was part of Wan‘s decision with the film, which feels at once retro and also new. Often times the film seems to be self-aware and making a remark on itself as much as horror movies in general. As you watch you feel like it’s formulaic, but then comes a heavy swing that has you seeing past the tropes first pitched to you.

Sometimes the pieces don’t completely fit. In fact, they’re tossed at you like discarded notes throughout, but once you tape it all together it -well- still looks whacky, but it at least makes you feel less confused, and giddily intrigued.

It’s memorable, it’s bonkers, it’s Wan but more unhinged than he’s been. And yes, he made Saw. There’s camp, there’s creepy, and there’s most certainly a dose of wait…what? The final act is frenzied, bloodied and unrelenting.

Undoubtedly, Malignant will be a film that doesn’t hit all audiences in the same way. As a movie that embraces its outrageousness with open arms, there’s a admirable quality that may often get looked at as too far reaching, but I dug it.

Malignant is current in theaters and on HBO Max until October 10th

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror (2007)

An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due! All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.

Disclaimer: Ironically, this also ties into Wonderfully Weird, because, let’s be honest, this isn’t a universally “got” film.

There are so many quotes from this film that I spew on a daily basis, so apologies (sorry- not sorry) if that happens often during this review. It’s just the ideal amalgamation of horror, comedy, and outright randomness that makes Planet Terror iconic.

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror
source: Dimension Films

A zombie (not really zombie, but zombie) government invented disease ravages local residents. Have we seen this before? Perhaps. In this delectably bizarre/hilarious way?

Helllll no.

“That Boy’s Got the Devil in Him”

Thank you Robert Rodriguez for this, and for a few others I might throw into the mix, to be continued) even if there’s plenty of his that I’m not as sold on. This first shot in the grindhouse combo unleashed a mess of guts, a random testicle storing/obsession (by the wonderful Naveen Andrews) of his victims, to Freddy Rodriguez’s honed “notorious” ability to kick ass as “El Wray” it is a ride. Not to mention an assortment of other acting gems like Michael Beihn (his on-going rivalry with brother Jeff Fahey’s for the ultimate BBQ recipe) and Rose McGowan with a machine gun/rocket launcher leg. To name a few. All of this may seem chaotic, and potentially not real, but it all really happens. It fits like a perfectly attached wooden appendage during an apocalyptic event when you need a leg.

Yeah, that’s Planet Terror.

This movie transcended a lot of previously used (sometimes abused) themes and made it original. At a time when one might wonder: how is this possible? Well, through a sense of obscurity, originality, and also, a healthy dose of throwback. The grindhouse appeal is a selling point, but the movie excels beyond the aesthetic, nostalgic touch. In simplest terms, it’s campy horror fun, with an assortment forced to come together (some overcoming their sordid pasts) to prevail over the evil looming here. 

“I’m Going to Eat Your Brains, and Gain Your Knowledge.”

One of my favorite aspects of Planet Terror, other than the humor that sneaks into every scene, some hilarious one-liners, is the style. If you’ve seen a lot of Rodriguez’s filmography, you know he’s got this in spades, but Planet Terror brings it to another level. It’s soaked in its grindhouse vibe, much like the other within the film duo, Death Proof. Another being The Machete movies, which came out of the wonderfully ridiculous trailers between the two films. Whether it be the gore or the sparks of the explosions, the effects and visuals pop. Also, props to the badass choreographed scene of Freddy Rodriguez‘s character fighting his way through a hospital ward and Josh Brolin’s creepy doctor. It’s exploitation, it’s throw-back horror, it is embracing the campiness with a wide-toothed, bloody grin. 

What do you think? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Recently, during our #BlindspotPodcast for Film Inquiry, Jake Tropila recommended a movie I had been meaning to watch for a long time: Only Lovers Left Alive. Why had I missed this? Who knows…life, time…all of the things considered in this newfound cinematic love.

This was a movie even referred to by my co-host as a “Kristy” film, which is exactly why I am taking the time to talk about how amazing it indeed is.

A vampire film, an existential contemplation on meaning and immortality, a funny, yet intellectual foray into the minds of humans (and our supernatural counterparts)= lovely cinema. There’s a lot to adore with Jim Jarmusch’s film, in a way you may not expect. I left the film satisfied and imbued with emotion, deep in thought, and self-reflection.

How’s that for a genre piece?

Tom Hiddleston (Adam) and Tilda Swinton (Eve) are amazing as the two leads. There’s a chemistry and yet a disconnect (in the most beautiful of ways) and I mean that in the sense that these two have been apart, and yet can be reunited with instant fire; it’s magnetic. A love story for many, many, ages. When Eve discovers that Adam is having a difficult time she immediately goes to his side. They’re forever entwined.

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive
source: Soda Pictures, Pandora Film Verleih

There are other terrific supporting roles from the likes of the tragically lost talent of Anton Yelchin to the amazing versatile Mia Wasikowska, to the incredible John Hurt. But, the real passion of this film comes from our leads and an imaginative almost lyrically profound story that is unlike anything that has come before. There’s a real appreciation for cinema, while also emphasizing on the admiration of the human experience.

Anytime someone can introduce a new facet to the “vampire“ sub-genre, I’m thrilled. It’s moody, it’s prolific, with the usual deadpan humor one can expect from this director’s cache, and Jim Jarmusch truly excels here, crafting an interesting character study that is also a blast to enjoy. While there’s a richness here within the narrative, there’s also an overall sweetness that prevails.

Jim Jarmusch weaves a lovely story here that mixes humor and sadness, highlighting intricacies while examining the simple moments of our daily existence. This is complete with music (some from Jarmusch’s band: SQURL) that truly sweep you off your feet. In fact, there are many times I felt like I was floating through this film, elevated by how artfully in tune it is. I believe this to be his best work, and it’s atmospherically encompassing. An intellectually inviting, endearing, and wonderful movie. And yes, there are vampires too.

Bonus!

What is your take? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due! All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.

In the last decade of filmmaking few films have hit me as high (picture a carnival hammer hitting the top bell) on the horror scale as much as It Follows. I have suggested this movie to more people than I can count and the reasoning is simple: it’s one of the best, most original, and long-lasting cinematic encounters of the genre. Especially in recent history.

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Some might classify this in its barest form (undeservingly so) as a thriller about youngsters spreading a curse through sex. Yes, if you want it to be defined in the most generic way, perhaps, but that’s part of the excellency here, it exceeds this notion, and while it may be a metaphor for unprotected sex and transmitted diseases, its nature is a much more prolific and terrifying one.

After Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, a haunting reality is passed onto her. Her only way out is to continue the process, further spreading the “virus.”

Apart from some of the creepiest imagery in recent movies, David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows enlivens multiple horrific elements: being stalked (obviously), feeling alone and unbelieved, as well as internally deeply attacked, and the inevitable suffering. Though in this tale, our main protagonist has a support system, and while the others can’t always see the ghoulish followers, they sense (and sometimes see) the effect. What’s seen is truly chilling. Some of my favorite displays on-screen of fear incarnate.

It’s a gut-punch of a horror, of course, in a great way. Whenever I have shown this to someone I get giddy in their reactions. That’s because it is visceral and completely overwhelming. Exactly what you strive for in a film like this. It’s also shot with beautiful cinematography coupled with a score and feel that echoes more classic, retro horror. Monroe’s terror is thoroughly perceptible, a bona fide horror queen (soon to come another love of mine The Guest) where she’s also sensational.

For any fan of this particular genre: this is a must-see. One of the best, stylish, more recent horrors you’ll discover. It will creep up on you, and won’t let go.

What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

This is an opportunity to appreciate the more horrific things in life, especially when it comes to my favorite platform: movies.

How could I not start off this column with one of my favorite horror movies of all time? While this is hardly ever an easy thing to answer (in any genre) John Carpenter’s The Thing, always makes it to my lips. This movie not only left a cinematic impression, I felt it.

To this day, it is rare for a film to be as instrumental in my love for the genre as much as this movie. It’s one that I can watch repetitively, and believe me I do, and still find new things I adore each time. Isn’t this the gift of great cinema?

When you are approaching a remake it’s difficult to elevate yourself from the source in a way that brings in new fans and satisfies old alike. Carpenter managed to excel at this, taking the 1950’s version and making it scarier, tenser, and somehow even more memorable.

This is, The Thing.

The Thing (1982) source: Universal Pictures

One of my favorite elements in horror films, be it psychological, a creature-feature, slasher- what have you, is when the story takes place in a limited, if not a singular primary setting. There’s something inherently eerie about the isolation of this group of men in Antarctica, trapped by both weather and circumstance, forced to question their sanity and…ultimately, one another.

It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers but there’s an even smaller group potentially “infected”. How do you know if this… “thing” has gotten the others? How can you trust your friend, your co-worker, if it’s possible it’s some alien/entity trying to consume you (and I mean CONSUME, in some of the best practical effects/body horror/make up ever). It’s what all horror connoisseurs crave; a mysterious and evocative beginning, a steady burgeoning of tension, and enough left unexplained leveled with the right amount of terror shown.

Another element that The Thing has going for it is the casting. While Kurt Russell is a pretty household name, here, as pilot R.J. MacReady, complete with long hair and one of my favorite on-screen beards, he’s incredible. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the genius of Ennio Morricone‘s score. It’s a beautifully strange combination that matches the mixing of sci-fi and horror. It’s synth, it’s subtle, and yet it’s bone-chillingly apt. In fact, there’s nothing ineffective about the making of The Thing.

In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece of filmmaking, of suspense building and maintaining, and one of the most iconic horror movies you’ll ever see.