(SPOT.ph) Like a vampire in the night, the spooky season has the power to bring a cold and foreboding presence into your home, but only should you have the courage to invite it into the house in the first place. We at SPOT.ph consider ourselves the most fearless fans of frightening films, so much so that the search is on to find hidden gems of the horror genre on the various streaming services. After all, who wants to be stuck at home and as disappointed as Homelander due to yet another lazy jump scare-filled horror picture?
Our first stop down this street laden with underrated horror movies? The perfectly crooked haunted house that is director James Wan’s Malignant, which is streaming on HBO Go.
Malignant is definitely one of the most unique horror outings from Hollywood, as it starts off as your classic Wan haunted house story (in the vein of his previous works, The Conjuring and Insidious), then it shifts gears into this Dario Argento Giallo-like murder mystery that has elements of Sam Raimi’s twisted humor and David Cronenberg body horror, before ultimately transforming into an ‘80s grindhouse slasher film. Watch your friends go from a curious “Okay, okay…” to a sadistic “Yes!! Yes!!” as the film goes on.
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James Wan’s Malignant Is Worth the Watch This Halloween Season
The horror movie follows Madison (portrayed by Peaky Blinders and Annabelle star Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant woman who lives with an abusive husband (Jake Abel). One day, her drunkard husband goes too far and smashes her head into a wall, which causes Madison to both lose her baby and start developing visions of real people who end up getting murdered.
That’s a short summation of the film’s first 20 minutes, anyway. The rest of the film can only be described as unhinged, as it tries to meld together elements such as parasitic twin siblings, heavy metal revelations at a psychiatric institution, a body-disfiguring serial killer, dumb cop humor, and a jailhouse brawl featuring New Zealand’s delight Zoë Bell.
You may think these elements wouldn’t mesh tonally, but that’s exactly what makes Wan’s jazz-like mastery of horror form and composition shine through. He knows just exactly the precise moment to bring out a laugh before flipping the switch and stabbing you in the heart.
Essentially, Malignant’s self-confidence in tone is what makes it special among modern horror films. It’s unabashedly in love with the trickery of horror; how entertainment and fright come hand in hand. Sometimes, you get serious moments of extended silence, wherein a character stands alone in a dark room. Other times, you get loud and ultra-violent scenes where the unspeakable horror is screaming at you in the face. These contrasting approaches riff off one another, throwing off your mind’s compass in regard to expectations of this genre, making for one bloody ride. Some gasps will be had, for sure.
We’d even love to throw in the idea that the film, at its center, is about familial trauma—as audiences do find some validation in their horror film being about something—but even the film itself doesn’t seem to buy into that. It knows it’s an inherently ridiculous film, so it plays to its strengths of dialing up all its horror sub-genre riffs up to 11. It knows its target audience’s main desire, our unholy grail, is “trick or treat,” anyway.
Also read: 10 Asian Horror Movies to Watch If You Don't Want to Feel Alone Anymore
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