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Published by David Carter on 2015/4/19 (751 reads)
Directed by Brian Avenet-Bradley
Review by David Carter
Released by MVD Visual/Avenet Images
Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Making of Documentary
Trailer Online: Yes
As I approach my second decade of reviewing movies, I’m often struck by the fact that very little has changed. Technology both for making and watching movies continues to improve, but movies themselves haven’t made any great leaps forward. For example, the latest trend in mainstream cinema is 3-D, which has been around since the 1950s. The names are really the only things that change, so it’s a nice surprise when someone you came across in the past makes a return trip through your DVD player. It has been well over a decade since I reviewed Brian Avenet-Bradley’s first two films, COLD BLOOD and GHOST OF THE NEEDLE. I enjoyed both and observed that Avenet-Bradley would likely get better as he made more films. Turns out I was right for a change as his latest, MALIGNANT, is a well-made and very disturbing shocker.
Poor Allex. His wife and the love of his life, Emily, dies, leaving him a broken shell of a man. He turns to the bottle as many do but quickly becomes a pitiful alcoholic, regularly blacking out, missing work, and alienating himself from his friends. As he’s drowning his sorrows one night he gets a strange text saying “Don’t drink that” from an unknown number. Later, a mysterious man offers him help to stop drinking, but he doesn’t heed the warning or take the help, and wakes up the next morning with a large scar. He goes to the hospital and finds out he’d already been treated for the scar the night before, only he doesn’t remember. Despite his blackouts now leading to major bodily harm, Allex continues to indulge, forcing the mysterious yet helpful man to take a more drastic step to cure him.
The anonymous “doctor” (Brad Dourif) informs Allex that the scar is due to the implantation of a mind control device that he’s using to create some dramatic “aversion therapy” to cure him of alcoholism. Every time Allex gets blackout drunk, the doctor forces him to kill someone. Allex responds with disbelief even after being shown video footage of the murders, but several days of waking up covered in blood manage to make a believer out of him. When soliciting assistance from a tech-savvy friend doesn’t help, Allex has to come to grips with the fact that he’ll have to save himself from the doctor’s “treatments.”
MALIGNANT has a very interesting concept that is one of the better scenarios to come through the horror genre in a few years. Skewering our current “self help” culture, MALIGNANT takes a plausible scenario to the extreme, which makes for a film that will resonate deeply with some viewers but be relatable to all. Most of the film’s violence occurs off-screen, but it still manages to generate considerable tension throughout based solely on the inherent creepiness of the plot. MALIGNANT is primarily a psychological thriller and definitely one that will stay with you for a few days after the viewing. Strong performances by the lead Gary Cairns and the legendary Brad Dourif make a strong case for this being one of the better low budget horror films in years.
MALIGNANT’s DVD comes with SURGERY FOR THE SOUL, a 38 minute making of/documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew. The DVD itself has a good picture quality and the film looks very polished for lack of a better term. Brian Avenet-Bradley may have come a long way from using unknown actors to a star like Dourif, but his films have remained largely the same. Engaging and unique plotlines have formed the basis of his oeuvre and MALIGNANT merely represents the culmination of the promise seen in those early films. Definitely recommended for fans of psychological horror.
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