Movie Review: ‘Malignant’

In recent years, director James Wan has proven himself to be one of the top directors in the horror genre with hits like; Saw, Insidious, and the Conjuring. The success of his foray into the superhero genre with Aquaman proved he can play ball with the studios in making big blockbuster tentpoles. Luckily, lovers of scary movies got to see Wan return to the genre this weekend with his new movie Malignant.

During the course of one night Maddie’s life takes a horrible turn. A dark entity brutally murders her abusive husband and attacks her leading to a miscarriage in her pregnancy. Shortly thereafter she begins to experience visions of this same mysterious attacker slaughtering others. With Detectives Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss on the case, they see Maddie as the key to unlocking the secret to this serial killer who seemingly lurks in the labyrinthian underground of Seattle. This involves digging into her past and discovering memories Maddie had long since locked away involving her imaginary friend Gabriel.

All weekend, my social media feed was filled with proclamations that Malignant was bonkers, and I am the kinda guy who loves bonkers horror flicks. In his previous films, James Wan often opted for a more subtle approach slowly building up to the terror. Here the director goes for broke with fast-paced thrills to keep your ass firmly on the edge of your seat. His time helming Aquaman must have rubbed off on him as he utilizes more action beats and fx shots than normal. There is one scene in a police station that even plays out like a macabre superhero action scene. There is definitely influences from movies like Eyes of Laura Mars and Blood and Black Lace present in this weird pseudo-slasher with a psychological bent. That being said his penchant for the classic Expressionistic style is still there leading to some gorgeous setpieces. Gabriel proves to be a fascinating villain for the picture as he is grounded enough to be believable but with enough supernatural intrigue to add an extra edge. He has a twisted origin combined with a creepy MO to be an incredibly memorable character. Like any great horror movie killer, his ties to the protagonist Maddie make him even more fascinating. I do not want to get too much into it for fear of causing spoilers but, their story makes Maddie an incredibly complex character and Annabelle Wallis nails all of the character beats.

While many have been divided by Malignant I thought it was a great blast of a horror flick. It is not the clinic in cinematic terror that Insidious was and it is far from the sharp low budget game changer Saw was, but it is clearly James Wan having fun making a monster movie.