[Article] The Polarizing Nature of James Wan’s MALIGNANT
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In James Wan’s latest film, MALIGNANT, he goes back to the start of it all: horror. In the film, which has an air of mystery surrounding it, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is paralyzed by shocking visions as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.

This past weekend, Nightmarish Conjurings attended the press junket for MALIGNANT which allowed us to have a talk with the modern master of horror about his return to the genre. During the conference, Wan discussed everything from returning to the genre, influences, and more.

When it comes to modern-day horror, James Wan reigns supreme. It’s been a few years since the Insidious and Conjuring director has come back to the beloved genre, but when talking about his new film with Luis Lecca from Nuke the Fridge, Wan stated:

“Whenever I’m making one of my big-budget films like Aquaman, all I want to do is just go back to making a smaller film, a smaller, more intimate film,” explained Wan. “And that was what happened when I was in the midst of making Aquaman and spending a whole year, two years, making that film and then a whole year doing post-production on it. And all I wanted to do was to go back and do something unique, something that harkened back to the start of it. It came from the desire to want to do that. Then it became a case of finding a story that would fit that aspiration if you will.”

With a film such as MALIGNANT, it’s hard to not see the inspiration from other horror greats. With the love Wan has for the genre, it’s no wonder he would pull from some of the greatest in the industry. When speaking with Mike Manalo from The Nerds of Color, Wan explained the multiple avenues he pulled from for inspiration:

“It will be a genre blender, right?” And the blender is my head and all this stuff that is filtered all through the years growing up,” Wan explained. “So yes, Raimi is in there, Cronenberg, Argento, Bava, you know, DePalma as well, obviously. It’s hard for me to sort of pinpoint it to one person per se because it is a combination of things. It is all the stuff that I grew up loving.”

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Wan further went on to explain how his experience going to video stores as a kid and how he hopes that MALIGNANT will find itself hidden away for that perfect horror fan:

“When people ask me what the feel of a film is or how I would describe it in a way where I don’t describe the story…It’s the kind of movie, for me, when I was growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s where I would go to the video store and we would travel all the way to the back of the video store, to the horror section. And we’ll go even deeper than that, to the back shelves of the horror section and the movie that we would pull out would be this film that we had never seen before but it has a cool cover. And I want MALIGNANT to be that.”

One thing is for sure, MALIGNANT is a film that won’t soon be forgotten, and this is something that Wan knows. When talking with Screen Rant about how polarizing the film may be for some viewers, Wan didn’t hold back.

“When I made the first SAW film, I became known as…they started labeling us with that torture porn label. And I became like the guru of blood and gore and torture and all that stuff. And I, at the time I felt it was very unwarranted because I didn’t think SAW was as hardcore as everyone thought of it,” explained Wan. “So coming into MALIGNANT, I actually think MALIGNANT is easily my most violent and most gory films.”

“I know that part of it is going to turn some people off. The people that love my Insidious and The Conjuring films, especially the more mainstream public and the mainstream critics that like not so much blood and guts in your face kind of horror filmmaking,” explained Wan. “That wasn’t the movie I wanted to make with MALIGNANT, I’ve done that version. I’ve done my Conjuring. I’ve done my Insidious and I didn’t want to repeat myself there. And I wanted to do something that wasn’t a jump-scare horror film but at the same time, it also has a lot of visceral shock to it. Really, the whole movie is a build-up to this big revelation at the end. And it’s more about how I showcase it, so people can either go with how outrageous it gets, or people can be turned off by it…It’s a film that I have to live and stand by the sword if you will live and die by the sword. I’m going into this accepting that people either love it or hate it. So it is what it is.”

MALIGNANT will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures on September 10, 2021, in theaters nationwide and on HBO Max via their Ad-Free plan in 4K UHD, HDR10, and Dolby Vision on supported devices; it will be available on HBO Max for 31 days from the theatrical release.

Shannon McGrew
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