This is such a tough film to review for me. The story and dialogue seems like its from a bargain bin paperback in the 80’s, with all the good and bad that entails. Its formulaic in its structure, but its very self aware of that. This is unmistakably a great modern giallo film. If you like giallo films then I think this will be a treat for you. It hits on the specific setups and payoffs of that genre really well.
A common element of James Wan films is impeccable execution. Some of the tracking shots and the “dollhouse” style overhead and wide shots were really inventive and impactful. The character design, production design, and effects work were all top tier in this movie. The acting was fine, though not very remarkable. There is a high level of artifice in his movies, everything feels heightened and unnatural. In most movies this would be a detriment, but here it is a key strength. It makes everything feel so cinematic. There is no mistaking this as a MOVIE, and in a an era where the A24 style “elevated” horror seems to double down on realism and naturalistic sets/lighting, that is very refreshing. He also has a very obvious understanding of genre and how to tactfully exceed the expectations working in that space.
I think with Malignant, Wan has further cemented his name as a titan of horror and maybe the best filmmaker working today at turning underwhelming stories/screenplays into really good movies. The man could adapt the Websters Dictionary into a fun movie at this point.