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Malignant (Blu-ray Review)

James Wan is one of our best mainstream working directors today. No matter what he’s working on, the minute it comes out you really need to see it. His craft and joy of movie making is infectious through every one of his projects. Personally, for me, I love the fact that he and frequent collaborator tend to make low budget movies made for ten bucks look like they were made for 100 million. Wan’s latest effort is a “one for me” film in that of Malignant, squeezing between Aquaman features. The film sadly didn’t fare so well at the box office and had a simultaneous release on HBO Max. Unfortunately, at this time, we aren’t getting a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release and simply a standard Blu-ray with a sole 15 minute featurette. If the film continues to find a following, perhaps we can get a deluxe release by someone somewhere down the line. For now, you can pick it up on physical media on standard Blu-ray and you can do so by using the paid Amazon Associates link following this review.

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Film

Paralyzed by fear from shocking visions, a woman’s torment worsens as she discovers her waking dreams are terrifying realities.

No matter your opinion on Malignant, nobody had any idea what they were in for with James Wan’s latest. The film featured a very light advertising campaign and the trailer really left you wondering what exactly the film was about. Basically, it was “here’s a new horror film James Wan, who makes awesome horror films. And if you know who Annabelle Wallis is, she’s in it.” And truly, “the new film from James Wan” should be enough to get anyone who loves movies to get their butt in the theater or hit PLAY on HBO Max the first day it came out.

Wan’s latest features a hybrid of all sorts of styles and influences to go along with his own very strong sensibilities. One of Wan’s greatest strengths is his love of the camera. There’s nary a boring moment in the film ever. And that’s thanks to some great angles as well as some insane “no limits” efforts in moving the camera around the room. Touch that together with the great lighting, stunt choreography and sets used on the film, and this thing is amusing on silent, even without the effective sound design and score for the film.

Malignant’s monster in that of Gabriel, is quite a concoction. Its a batshit crazy that you’ll think you have a handle on what’s going on, and you’re probably somewhere in the idea of it, but you have NO CLUE how it actually is presented. And its wonderful that Wan does not hold back and absolutely goes for broke. Its a as much a throwback as it is something fresh and modern. There are some spectacular stunt and fight and special effects/transformation sequences that come along with it that are showstopping. One of the biggest surprise turns in horror and film in quite some time. One that is an immediate water cooler conversation starter or Twitter rave.

The film easily pulls at my heartstrings as Wan clearly cribs from Italian horror of the late 70s/early 80s with the aesthetic and feel of the film, but he doesn’t just show off a simple filter or “Look I made it look exactly like House By The Cemetery!” Wan does his own thing with it that feels like a completely realized influence and not just an obvious homage. And cheers to Annabelle Wallis who absolutely crushes it in this movie, with a full commitment to the role and understanding of the film and the type of vibe Wan is going for. Wan’s camera work and her performance with her eyes and facial reactions are almost a lightning the bottle kind of moment. I also really applaud a cast filled out with a lot of unknowns or a mostly unfamiliar to most audiences bunch.

Its such a joy to see a master at work, doing their thing in a “for me” film. Some of the “story only, pls” folks that don’t understand film production may be a little head scratchy at the over-joy a lot of us see with Malignant, but even if the films script was a turd, this movie would still garner a minimum 2.5-3 stars just based on the fact that its fun as hell to watch and its so well made and features a ton of ingenuity at work. And once again, Wan takes a very low budget and rocks it better than a majority of films with 100X the money he is working with.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: While we pine for a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release, the Blu-ray for Malignant is pretty much the best you could ask for. Its a very dark movie, but has some great contrast that really allows the film to pop, while handling darkness with such ease. The image is clear, crisp and sharp and contains lots of excellent texture, pattern and detail.

Depth:  What’s impressive about the depth of field here, despite the great displays of spacing, is the way this presentation smoothly and confidently handles these intense and whiplash inducing camera movements. Its a treat. Character motions are natural and feature no issues with motion blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are rich and deep and wonderfully accent the image. This a dark movie full of shadows, darkness, night and even our lead and villain wear a lot of black or very dark clothing to go along with brunette hair. It all is handled incredibly well, losing no information and no crushing occurs.

Color Reproduction: Colors are a hair intentionally washed out but utilized to contrast with some really deep and popping reds in the mix. This has a really nifty palette that wants to go for gloomy and spooky but shies away from doing your typical full blue or full green filtering. Its more rather white and regular colors have a solid look to them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are quite clear and discernible from any given distance in the frame. Special effects make-up holds up quite well and its fun to see all the gruesome details with such clarity.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio (US) Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio (UK) Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: Malignant only offers up a 5.1 track but its an effective and in your face experience. The film’s audio is plenty engaging in terms of loudness and craftiness in honoring the onscreen proceedings. The mix is well balanced, featuring good touch on depth and layering with its sound effects. Again, like the video, Atmos is what we want, but the 5.1 we get is about the best of what it could produce.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer has plenty of boom from the soundscape as well as scoring hit, crashing, gunfire, smashing, punches, kicks and much more.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix has fun whipping around the room with a good and accurate swing of force. Rear channels provide some of their own surprises as well as environment building with good ambiance and keeping track of off screen actions.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. There’s a great handling and presentation on Gabriel’s voice in the mix.

Extras

Malignant comes with a redeemable digital code of the film.

Malignant: James Wan’s Visions (HD, 14:11) – “You gotta take chances, or you just keeping making the same thing again and again”. Wan talks the joy about going back to doing an original concept and audiences being starved for something that is new and different. He considers Malignant as having a wide spectrum of horror subgenres infused into this movie. There’s a lot of bits about the inspiration and coming up with everything and also has interviews with Annabelle Wallis and writer Ingrid Bisu as well as some others. This is pretty informative for how quick it is and contains lots of behind the scenes footage.

Summary

James Wan’s Malignant is one of the year’s very best surprises and one my absolute favorite films of the year. Its bugnuts crazy, fun, unique and the kind of loving original entry into the horror genre we desire. This Blu-ray comes with about as top a presentation as you could hope for with 1080p and 5.1 surround sound. Only having one short featurette is a big bummer, but it truly does make the best of it with what is provided. Being a huge fan of the film, I’ll own it on any format they are going to give it to me on, but hopefully demand can produce a 4K down the line.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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