Malignant (2021) Isn’t What You Think It Is and That Is Why It Rocks
First Non-Festival Release: September 1, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: James Wan
Writer: James Wan, Akela Cooper, Ingrid Bisu
Runtime: 111 Minutes
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
One night after Madison (Annabelle Wallis) finds herself facing the wrath of her abusive husband, a home intruder breaks in to violently murder him before knocking her out cold. Reeling from the trauma she experienced, she tries to make sense of what happened while fighting the paranoia it has instilled in her. Soon, she finds herself having detailed visions of the killer offing new victims only to wake up the following morning perfectly fine. Will Madison, her sister (Maddie Hasson), the lead detective (George Young), and his partner (Michole Briana White) be able to uncover the truth behind this string of killings or will it be too late?
James Wan offers up everything and the kitchen sink approach to horror with giallo inspired Malignant.
What a ride! I don’t know how James Wan pulls it off, but with Malignant he crafts an excellent supernatural slasher that manages to keep the audience on their toes and questioning what will happen next. In the hands of the wrong person, Malignant would crash and fail, but Wan confidently executes his vision of madness and horror in a charming and exciting manner. Incredibly paced for a film with this long of a runtime, Malignant is a wicked action horror film with plenty of comedic grit from the get-go.
The mystery is common and done before, but the roundabout way we get there is unique for sure. I appreciate Malignant for trying something different and really going for it. By the time we reach the finale, we are introduced to a twist that is so convoluted one cannot help but smile. It fits the tone of the film in a way that makes it enjoyable and memorable. The relationship between Gabriel and Madison is compelling and all the pieces make sense by the end. I would have liked to have known more about Gabriel’s wants or needs. On the surface, he just wants revenge, but what else? What are his plans afterwards? It would have been neat to explore this and is certainly great material for a potential sequel.
Wallis does a fine job portraying Madison in a convincing manner. She stumbles a few times but makes up for it in other scenes where she ratchets up the creepiness or helplessness, whichever she is tasked with portraying. Hasson and Young do great in their roles as supporting characters too, each getting their own moments to shine and face off against evil. The real scene stealer, however, is Troy James’s work with portraying Gabriel’s physicality. The effects work complements James’s portrayal just as well. I found myself cringing in horror every time I saw Gabriel, both close up and far away. To say more would be spoilers of course but just know that his work is incredible.
Contrary to what most audience members are expressing, I believe Malignant is a well-made film. Malignant has some of the best and coolest visuals I have seen from a horror film this year. There’s a moment where Madison is running through her home, and it is filmed like she is in a dollhouse. This is before we learn about Gabriel, which makes this a great thematic addition to the script and a good use of foreshadowing. It’s also just really cool to watch.
Plenty of top tier moments in the movie play out just like this, showcasing the level of care and ingenuity put into the film. The camerawork is fresh and dynamic, which makes the action feel like it never ends. A great use of lighting both in intensity and color creates a terrifying ambience whenever Gabriel exerts his power. The score is energetic, frightening, and all-around kickass. Its technical aspects are on point for a movie that aspires to be the best B-movie possible.
Malignant is the shot of adrenaline that has been sorely needed in the horror genre as of late. Operating on revised formulas from the golden age of horror while infusing new approaches to storytelling and filmmaking, Malignant is a miracle to have even been made. It certainly is not a film for everyone and those with seeking a more traditional horror film may find themselves turned off by the brazenness of Malignant. Others who crave a mainstream horror film that dares to go against the grain will find themselves rewarded with this wonderfully frightening and entertaining genre film. I know I am begging Warner Brothers to greenlight a sequel despite the Box Office numbers. We’re still in a pandemic, please don’t let that stop you from starting a wickedly cool franchise!
Overall Score? 8/10