There are multiple ways to measure the value of a movie. Of course, there’s artistic quality, but there is also something to be said for a movie that gets people talking. The new horror movie, Malignant is not exactly a quality production, but it is so bizarre that audiences are going to want to talk about it. I know I did.
In Malignant, Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) begins having violent nightmares after her abusive husband bashes her head into a wall. Each nightmare she has, however, corresponds to an actual murder and Detectives Shaw (George Young) and Moss (Michole Briana White), and Madison’s sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson), must discover how Madison is connected to the brutal cases. The truth is more shocking (and ridiculous) than any of them expected.
I hated this movie until around the 80-minute mark. I spent the first hour trying to decide if it was intentionally campy or just incredibly bad. Then, in the last act, the story takes a big twist that firmly plants it in so-bad-it’s-good territory, making it clear that it is campy on purpose, and going full-throttle toward a ridiculous conclusion. I will be purposely vague so as not to spoil it, but the plot twist and how it is revealed are so outlandish that I gasped, laughed, and shifted from mild disinterest to sitting on the edge of my seat for the rest of the movie. If the movie had not been so bad up to that twist, I actually do not think it could have pulled it off, but how silly it all is works in favor of the shocking ending.
For those previous 80 minutes, the acting is abysmal, the music is over-the-top, and the overall quality is that of a made for TV movie. Director James Wan has made high quality horror movies before, including the first Conjuring film, so I was surprised how very bad most of this movie is. After seeing the ending, it all looks like an homage to campy horror movies, but in the moment, it is kind of difficult to slog through. I suspect that the low-quality building to a fun ending will make Malignant polarizing, but also fun to discuss. I know I couldn’t wait to talk about it. Is it a good movie? Not really. But the moment the twist happens will live rent-free in my brain for quite some time. Whether the rest of the movie is worth that moment will be a matter of personal taste.
Malignant was written and directed by James Wan. It is rated R and runs for 1 hour 51 minutes. It is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max for a limited time.
Amazon Prime is streaming a scary story of a different kind—the tale of a Multi-Level Marketing company (pyramid scheme?) gone wrong: LuLaRich. The four-part documentary follows the rise and fall of the clothing company LuLaRoe, using interviews with the founders, DeAnne and Mark Stidham, and various employees and retailers, both former and current. LuLaRich has the playful vibe of true crime documentaries including McMillions, and the filmmakers are able to thread the needle of being sympathetic to those who had terrible experiences working for LuLaRoe while also being critical of manipulative business practices.
I personally never owned any LuLaRoe clothing, but I know people who have, and since watching the series I have enjoyed asking people about their purchases. I know people who got the really nice, soft LuLaRoe leggings and people who got leggings during the period when they were smelly, sometimes moldy, and tore easily. The quality issues with the leggings (which the company does not acknowledge) serve as a microcosm for the issues with the organization as a whole, and the story of the quick growth followed by the dubious, almost cult-like experiences retailers had was surprisingly gripping. Anyone who has been invited to an MLM party that they didn’t want to go to can relate to the women in this documentary.
LuLaRich was directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. It runs for four approximately one-hour episodes and is rated TV-14.
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