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  Malignant Pure Imagination
Year: 2021
Director: James Wan
Stars: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Amir AboulEla, Mercedes Colon, Ingrid Bisu, Ruben Pla, Jon Lee Brody, Paula Marshall, Zoe Bell
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A few years ago, at this medical institution, Dr Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) was just beginning her medical assessment on VHS when there was a commotion elsewhere in the building and a medic burst in to inform her the subject of her assessment, Gabriel, had got loose again. She rushed to the scene and found carnage, as Gabriel was in a murderous mood, slaughtering anyone who got near, but Weaver managed to get her hands on the tranquiliser dart-shooting rifle and administered a hasty end to his rampage. Now, in the present, Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) knows nothing of these events...

But she is about to get a crash course in them, in possibly the most talked about horror movie of 2021, and all thanks to a final act that went so crazy that many could not believe what they were seeing: there was certainly no way to predict it from what had gone before, unless your process of putting two and two together involved memories of a particular Stephen King novel. Not that director James Wan was executing a rip-off, this was very much its own beast, and not unlike his old colleague Leigh Whannell's Upgrade in its overall effect, and besides, that King novel had been filmed with far less imagination than anything here.

Well, more or less, the kicker of an opening scene of the King adaptation was repurposed for a grand reveal around half an hour before the end of this near-two hour long effort, and you had to say that keeping its surprise that late in the day was a double-edged sword. As was the trophy crafted into a weapon by the story's insane killer, for that matter. By keeping his powder dry for so long, Wan was in danger of allowing his audience's minds to wander, and not having their full attention because this was a generic James Wan flick might not have been a great idea: you could imagine walkouts in theatres and stop buttons at home before the twist.

What the film's fans would tell you was to stick with it, everything was here for a reason and the pay-off was nothing less than mighty, a spectacularly violent extravaganza of preposterousness invoking the Ginger Rogers compliment that she did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in heels. Before we got there, we had to make it through seemingly acres of backstory as Madison appears to have a connection to a series of murders happening in Seattle, her hometown. She initially suffers a personal tragedy when she loses her baby, another miscarriage in two years of them she has had to prevail over, but with the added tragedy that her boyfriend induced the condition by physically attacking her in their home one night.

Once he is out of the way, Madison's healing must begin, assisted by her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) who dotes over her. The police are naturally involved, but it takes some time for the injured woman to start speaking again, as the questions we have start to accumulate, especially about another woman (Jean Louisa Kelly) who the murderer has trapped in an attic somewhere in the city - what is her connection to the mayhem? Detectives George Young and Michole Briana White endeavour to make sense of this as Madison has visions of the victims' demises, and we get filled in on her childhood which has some significance. Wan sustained his mystery to the last possible moment: just as you are losing interest, maybe not because you've seen it all before, but perhaps feel you have, it all goes absolutely nuts. Was this good filmmaking? Threatening boredom before a blast of entertainment was assuredly eccentric, but here it succeeded admirably. Music by Joseph Bishara.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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