Thank You, ‘Malignant,’ for Being Malignant

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Malignant (CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot)

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Marina Mazepa, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, McKenna Grace, Ingrid Bisu, Amir AboulEla

Director: James Wan

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: September 10, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

I’ve never seen anything quite like Malignant. This is the type of movie that’s best to go in completely unspoiled on, so I’m going to be careful with how I choose my words. And after all, I like to keep it brief when reviewing something that’s already fully released, so I won’t say much more. But I will say this: when I heard that this movie was called “Malignant,” I wondered why it was so generic. Then I watched it and realized that it was actually the most perfect title.

One more bit before I go: one thing I like to do when reviewing is ask myself if the movie I’m reviewing makes me want to do/be the thing in the title. So… does Malignant make me want to be Malignant? Honestly, I’m tempted. I can’t deny how cool it would be. The vicarious thrills I experienced while watching were wildly energizing enough on their own. But it would probably lead to a lot of gore, and I have a history of getting lightheaded at the sight of blood, so better to keep things benevolent and benign.

Grade: 1999 Malignants

Movie Review: Ignore the R Rating, ‘Annabelle Comes Home’ is a Sweet Family-Friendly Tale of Kids on Their Own Learning How to Fight Off the Monsters

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CREDIT: Warner Bros./YouTube

Starring: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Michael Cimino

Director: Gary Dauberman

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for PG-13 Level Blood and Terror

Release Date: June 26, 2019

One of the best (if not THE best) qualities of horror movies is that slambang moment of ultimate catharsis. It can come in the form of releasing the death grip on your armrest, or finally breathing a sigh of relief, but it just as often can be a huge burst of laughter. Partly that’s because screaming and laughing are similar reactions, sometimes it’s because the movie is unintentionally hilarious, and other times it’s because the plot takes a break for some comedy. In the case of Annabelle Comes Home, it’s definitely the latter, as a dorky teenage pizza delivery dude assures a not-quite-as-dorky lovestruck teenage fellow that the only effective way to “woo” girls is “rock ‘n’ roll.” These two clearly do not have much romantic experience, and they have no idea about the hell-creatures in their midst, thus raising the stakes of their guilelessness but never making them objects of ridicule.

That whole vibe of kids figuring it out on their own and everything working out okay infuses the entirety of Annabelle Comes Home, the third in the creepy doll series and eighth in the larger Conjuring universe. Top dog demon hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) play their biggest role yet in any non-flagship entry in this franchise, but they still mostly step aside, serving basically as a bookend and framing device. They head out of town, leaving their pre-teen daughter Judy (Mckenna Grace) in the care of teenage babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman) with Mary Ellen’s friend Daniela (Katie Sarife) tagging along for the girl time.

With most of its main characters under the age of twenty, this is accordingly the most kid-friendly entry in the series, though it is rated R, like all other Conjuring films and their spin-offs. But that has often been undeserved, and it is especially outrageous here, as there is no profanity, all the romance is remarkably chaste, and all the gore is too stylized to be disturbingly explicit. In fact, the horror franchise that Annabelle most resembles besides its own is the kid-targeted Goosebumps (Iseman was one of the leads of last year’s Goosebumps 2, incidentally enough). Both feature kids accidentally unleashing a bunch of monsters and then managing to subdue them as they discover the guile they had within themselves the whole time. Annabelle is trippier and more twisted than Goosebumps, sure, but like Goosebumps, you’re never truly worried that the kids are going to be ripped apart limb by limb.

In between fighting off the spooks, the girls while away the night the way kids do when they’re on their own: playing board games, baking a cake, listening to the music of the day (in this case, Badfinger’s “Day After Day”). One underappreciated element of how the Conjuring Universe has improved the state of horror is its infusion of sweetness into the genre, especially when the Warrens are around. Defeating the evil ghosts is only worthwhile when you have loving family and friends to share the moment with and to remind you that there are nice ghosts, too.

Annabelle Comes Home is Recommended If You Like: Goosebumps, Earnest Teen Romances, The silent spaces between the scares

Grade: 3 out of 5 Werewolf Demons