‘Malignant’ Movie and Blu-ray Review

The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.

Malignant” was not only one of the most polarizing horror films of 2021, it was one of the most polarizing 2021 films in general.  There were critics and fans who called it a horror classic and one of the best horror films they’ve seen in quite a while.  You also had an audience which absolutely hated the film and thought it was laughably silly.  I thought it was one of the most entertaining, graphic, and in-your-face films of this past year.  It reminded me a lot of a David Cronenberg film with its use of imagery, especially during some of the later scenes, which I don’t want to go into great detail about because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Our film opens with a pregnant woman named Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) coming home from a long day of work to an abusive husband watching UFC on TV. He ends up banging her head against the wall in a fit of rage when he finds out she is not feeling too well.  They have had a couple of miscarriages in the past, and he is abusing her as though it is her fault.  Things, however, take an even more dramatic turn for the couple when her husband, Derek (Jake Abel), ends up dead in brutal fashion.  The two detectives on the case, played by George Young and Michole Briana White, first look at it as a home invasion where the husband died and the woman suffered some major injuries.  However, Madison doesn’t remember anything about a home invasion or what happened that night.

She turns to her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson), to help her figure out exactly what is going on. Things are taken up another notch when more and more people end up dead, and Madison is able to see and experience them as if she is there for the murder, even though she’s at home.  Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) is very curious about the case and believes the sisters when they say something is amuck.  He’s not afraid to look into it and investigate it while his partner, Regina Moss (Michole Briana White), thinks the two sisters are not making a lot of sense. However, before long, it’s not hard to see a connection between Madison and all of the murders.

“Malignant” is a film which relies on a big twist in the third act.  A lot of people said they saw the twist coming.  When I’m engrossed in a film, I tend not to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the result.  I’m more focused on what is happening and letting it unfold for me before my eyes. I’ve seen this film twice now: once on HBO Max and now on Blu-ray.  The first time I watched it, I found it a little slow-moving, tedious and, at times, quite dull.  The third act, however, saved the film for me.  I remember looking at my wife after the amazing third act and saying, “I need to watch this movie again. That ending blew me away!”

On a second viewing, the first half made a lot more sense to me, perhaps because I knew what was going to happen and how it was going to end.  This is a film which is only going to get better with multiple viewings.  I truly believe it is going to be a cult-classic for decades to come because of how balls-to-wall and brutally bloody and gory it is.  With that being said, this is a smart, well-made and well-acted horror movie.  It’s also a smart look at PTSD, trauma, how we handle it, and how our thoughts can control us.  There is a lot underneath the surface of “Malignant” and a whole lot to like.

James Wan, director of “Saw,” “The Conjuring”, “Insidious,” and “Furious 7” to name a few, has shown he has a great eye behind the camera.  This might be his most ambitious film to date which is saying something considering he directed “Aquaman.”  He goes for broke and does not disappoint.  As I mentioned earlier, I had a whole new appreciation for this film on a second viewing.  The emotional aspects are incredibly powerful and work in the world of a horror film.  Wan has always known how to create drama and real characters in a horror movie that you care about and root for from start to finish. I can’t wait to watch it again and again.  It’s a true work of art.

* * * * out of * * * *

Blu-Ray Info: “Malignant” is released on a single-disc Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital code of the film. The film has a running time of 111 minutes and is rated R for strong horror violence, gruesome images, and language.

Video/Audio Info:  This comes on a 1080p High-Definition transfer.  The audio formats are DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are included in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

Malignant: James Wan’s Visions

Should You Buy It?

YES, YES, and YES!!! The major bummer is the fact there is only one fourteen-minute special feature on this Blu-ray.  I would have loved an audio commentary with director James Wan. I’ve listened to his commentaries on some of his previous films, and he never fails to entertain and inform the audience.  This is the only blemish on this release: one tiny special feature.  However, if you are looking at the stand-alone film, this is a great one to pick up for the horror fan in your life.  They will not be disappointed by the final product.  I understand the polarizing nature of the film based on reviews from both critics and audiences alike.  However, I think “Malignant” is a horror masterpiece. The jail scene took my breath away.  The way it’s shot with wall-to-wall action is simply outstanding.  The way he takes his time in building up to the finish is exceptional. This film is only going to get better the more you watch it.  You should take a chance on it. You won’t regret it.

**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free.  The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.

I Saw The Light

I Saw the Light movie poster

Watching “I Saw the Light” reminded me of when I saw Oliver Stone’s “The Doors.” Both movies have a great cast, a lead actor who perfectly embodies an iconic singer, and scenes which vividly bring to life the classic songs of the artists. At the same time, both movies keep their main subjects, in this case country singer Hank Williams, at arm’s length to where we come out feeling like we never really got to know them. Considering the talent involved, this particular music biopic proves to be a major disappointment.

Writer and director Marc Abraham, whose previous film was “Flash of Genius,” eschews Hank’s childhood and goes straight to when he married Audrey Sheppard, a divorcee and single mother. They look like the perfect couple, and this is especially the case when you consider the palpable chemistry between stars Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen. But like many biopics, we know everything is heading downhill for these two, and Hank’s life got cut short by alcoholism and a painful medical condition. He was only 29 years old when he died, but he looked much, much older.

The movie gets off to a wonderful start as we see Williams singing one of his most famous songs in a sequence which is beautifully lit by the brilliant cinematographer Dante Spinotti. We are instantly hooked as the country icon’s lyrics capture our attention right away, and it makes us look like we’re in for quite the biopic. Unfortunately, this proves to be its high point as nothing else ever measures up.

One of the big problems with “I Saw the Light” is it is so sloppily edited to where it’s hard to tell what part of Hank’s life we are looking at. It goes from one section of his life to another before we can ever fully digest what is going on. This makes the movie very confusing, and it keeps us from getting to know Hank and the other people in his life more intimately. I felt like I never really understood what fueled his music, and he became the kind of person who is not at all fun to hang out with.

Also, the movie feels undercooked to where Abraham has his cast of actors underplay every single scene they appear in. Nothing ever comes to life in the way it should, and everything in “I Saw the Light” eventually becomes an exercise in tedium. It’s bad enough we never get deeper into Hank’s psyche, but to see this story portrayed in such a passionless way makes this whole project come across as an unforgivably missed opportunity.

“I Saw the Light” does, however, have Hiddleston as Hank Williams, and his performance is in some respects amazing. We all know him for playing Loki in the “Thor” and “The Avengers” movies, and at first he seems like an odd choice to play the man who made “Lovesick Blues” such an unforgettable song. But he succeeds not only in mastering Hank’s accent, but in getting the audience to feel the songs as much as he does when he sings them. That’s right, Hiddleston does his own singing here, and this makes his work here all the more admirable.

I was also impressed with Olsen’s performance as she makes Audrey perhaps the only human being who could possibly deal with Hank’s alcoholism and womanizing. Watching her here makes one realize what a powerful actress she can be, and she brings this movie to life in a way others are unable to.

As for the supporting characters, they are given short shrift and serve little purpose other than to further Hank and Audrey’s exploits. Cherry Jones, a tremendous actress, is wasted here as Hank’s mother Lillie as she has almost nothing to do other than sneer at any woman who grabs her son’s immediate affection. Bradley Whitford makes a bit of an impact as Fred Rose, the man who helped Hank rise to stardom, but Fred’s contributions to Hank’s career are made to feel smaller than they were. Maddie Hasson fares better as Billie Jean, the young woman who eventually becomes Hank’s second wife, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of her here.

For what it’s worth, “I Saw the Light” did give me a good appreciation of Hank Williams’ songs. I have never been much of a country music fan, but the movie made me see why his music struck such a strong chord in so many people. Hank understood the pain of love in a way others didn’t want to experience firsthand, and it was not hard to connect with the feelings he so deeply expressed through music.

Still, the movie never digs deep enough into his life, and what results is a inescapably frustrating cinematic experience. This could have been one of the best biopics of recent years, but the filmmakers treat their main subject with kids’ gloves to where he feels like a complete stranger from start to finish. Coming out of “I Saw the Light,” I wanted to read more about Hank Williams on Wikipedia among other places on the internet as there’s got to be much more information on him there than what we got here.

Copyright Ben Kenber 2016

* ½ out of * * * *