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Review Bites: Malignant, the Slasher series, Identity and Kung-Fu fighting Mortal Kombat Legends

James Wan strikes out chasing meatball pitches with a film that lazily blends together plots from some better, infamous horror movies from the past. As Madison Mitchell, the clumsy and blundering Annabelle Wallis (Annabelle, 2017’s The Mummy) is tormented by homicidal visions. Madison can see killings as they happen as if she were there herself. That part is cinematically cool, the way her surroundings melt away and such but the movie’s psychopath is not. The killer, a goofy amalgam of Sadako from Ringu and Eric Draven from The Crow , climbs ceilings and walls like Spider-Man when he isn’t crank calling Madison. You know the tried and true formula. Baffled police detectives suspect Madison so she tries to clear her name. Her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) lends a hand digging through her sister’s past but is stymied by Madison’s convenient amnesia. Hasson was miscast. She should have been Madison as she turns in one of the only believable performances in the entire film. Malignant is an unintentionally hilarious mess of a movie that should have been axed in pre-production and probably would have been if Wan’s name hadn’t been attached to it. One of the worst horror movies since M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening which is quite fitting since all Malignant has going for it is its absurd twist.

Not sure how I missed this one back in 2003. Perhaps I was on summer vacation in Translyvania when it was released. No matter, that is what streaming services and VOD is for. Like Momento or The Usual Suspects, Identity is storytelling at its very best. Here we have Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None template handled in a very clever way. A group of strangers including John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet and Rebecca De Mornay, are stranded at a Nevada motel in a rain storm. The roads are flooded so there is nowhere for them to go until Mother Nature takes a chill pill. I know what you are thinking. No, this is not the Bates family motel…but it might as well be. News of an escaped prisoner on the loose has everyone on edge and then losing their marbles when they start being picked off one by one. Director James Mangold (The Wolverine, Ford v Ferrari) filmed a bunch of endings to keep even the cast guessing as to the outcome of the story. And what a fantastic story it is. It may seem like your typical slasher movie but it is far much more than that.

As was previously mentioned here, The Slasher horror anthology series was a thing long before season four showed up on Shudder. The Executioner, the first season, aired on Chiller in the U.S. and on Super Channel in Canada. The next two seasons (Guilty Party and Solstice), were broadcast and are still available on Netflix, along with the first season. While Executioner and Guilty Party were sensational slasher whodunits, the series lost its way with Solstice which was more about messaging than providing decent scares. The new season, Flesh and Blood, is only available on Shudder and returns the franchise to its roots. It is one of the best seasons in the series. Flesh and Blood centers on such a dysfunctional family that make the Griffins look like the Cleavers. They are killed off by another masked killer, which is a Slasher trademark. Legendary Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg stars as the cantankerous patriarch of the family and he has a hell of a lot of fun in the role. His latest diabolical scheme is to force them all to compete for the entire fortune he has amassed over his lifetime. The big reveal at the end is also a nod to another one of Christie’s stories but to reveal which one would be wading into spoiler territory. The kills are wonderfully nasty. My faves were a victim getting sawed in half while being suspended between two trees, a woodchipper death is always great fun and somebody literally gets their face bitten off…in chunks. It goes without saying that Slasher is not for the faint of heart as the showrunners revel, wallow in gore. American Horror Story has nothing on Slasher. Yeah, I said that.

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge made a big splash…in blood…when it debuted last year. The video game franchise is notorious for its brutality. That level of violence and gore was a big and essential part of Scorpion’s Revenge. Battle of the Realms is no different in that regard. Besides reprocessing the same old tournament storyline to hang all of its plot points on, Realms is an exciting mature Mortal Kombat adventure which is not for those little gamers you might have around unless you don’t mind them seeing decapitations, disembowelings or the kind of swear words you would hear at an MMA event. Once again Raiden assembles a team of kick-ass fighters to go toe-to-toe with the evil Shao Kahn and his gang of super-duper, supernatural minions. Johnny Cage is a riot. He steals the show with his Deadpool-ish banter. The plot twists, including some deaths, may have fans reeling as if they got struck with a crescent kick to the head.

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