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Brian Avenet-Bradley
Gary Cairns
Brad Dourif
Nick Nicotera
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One of my favorite horror character motifs is something I like to call a “vigilante saint”. These are antagonist characters who use horror show murder and torture tactics to make up for some terrible event in their past that still wounds them. These well-meaning (but surely vicious) characters actually endeavor to make the world a better place by kidnapping/ tormenting offenders that personally sicken them for some secret, deeply personal reason all so they may play bizarre games with them until their hapless human prey escapes or dies trying…(but, usually, not before they learn a little something about themselves in the process). This week’s film is called MALIGNANT, the story of your usual run of the mill mad doctor, who really sees alcoholism as the most serious social problem in all of mankind. As such, he seeks to cure all alcoholics using unconventional behavior modification techniques that give new meaning to the word “intervention”. Let us look at MALIGNANT and see if it is a proper “treatment” of bad movie medicine.

Allex is a man who suffers from but external and internal circumstances and soon his life is going to get even worse. After losing his pretty new wife to a tragic accident, he starts to drink his problems away at the local bar.  Soon thereafter he awakens in a usual daze full of scrambled memories, to discover not only a fresh mystery incision across his chest but surgical stitching to cover the wound. Shortly thereafter Allex is contacted in email by a man who emails a video depicting him brutally murdering a harmless victim, along with a warning admonishing him not to drink anymore.  Whether or not is due to the stress of the situation, or the fact that he is feeling like nobody’s robot, Allex, doesn’t listen/continues to drink and footage of another video/victim is sent to him after his “convenient” lapses of memory and reason. The rest of the film details Allex’s personal crusades to not only thwart the man who has taken control of his alcoholic alter ego but to unravel the secret behind his own filmed, murderous rampages before the authorities get involved and surely arrest him at once.  Of course, because “The Man” is played none other by the inimitable Brad Dourif, you can be sure that the ultimate conspiracy will be a lot more intense, evil and filled with dark intrigue incarnate. It bears mentioning that the portrayal of the evil “mad scientist” by Dourif is the one element of the entire work that elevates the whole movie to something dark and unthinkable instead of merely laughable, when one considers little technical B-movie details such as the fact that the “surgical behavioral implants” look like suspiciously like ordinary button batteries to the untrained eye. For an infamous Horror alumni actor (he was the voice of “Chucky”, after all) that actually starred in a LORD OF THE RINGS movie, his portrayal of “The Man” does everything you could ever expect to elevate a simple B-movie containing all of four characters into something that is actually watchable, sensible and worthy of a few moments of purely technical, MDA approved, torture porn dread.  Also, as should be the case for any other mastermind character, there is some attention devoted to the backstory of  “The Man” which explains, but could never truly justify his insane butchery and surgical alteration of his fellow man for sport (and dramatic effect).

Yet this film is not perfect, for one thing it goes on for five minutes too long in order to provide us some great explanation about the “ultimate surgical conspiracy”, when I didn’t care anymore because the final moments of this flick where Allex confronts “The Man” was a more satisfying finale that I was even expecting and everything that happened after it seemed unnecessary if certainly anticlimactic.  It’s basic creature feature 101, almost all horror films have the good sense to end immediately after the protagonist and antagonist have a brutal physical struggle to the death of the other. This one does not and at 85 minutes, the running time could have taken the hit of ending a few minutes sooner after its “real” conclusion. While not a deep, incredibly crafted film, it does raise some symbolic, almost subliminal anxieties that many Americans feel about our health care system, where “we don’t get to choose our doctor anymore” and how many people feel their mandatory coverage is filled with “incomprehensive rules and stipulations”. Conversely, in this film, the “bad doctor” chooses you….and as for his “program rules?” Let’s just say, sometimes, (as it is often the case of a film about a mad doctor) the treatment is worse than the disease. Still the film itself gets an extra skull just for the use of Dourif, the man simply exudes hate onscreen in every role he plays.

Special features include a 38-minute documentary “Surgery for the Soul”, interviews with Gary (Allex) Carnes and Brad (The Man) Dourif as well as “behind the scenes” footage.

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