Malignant is the new film from James Wan, the man behind Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious. With such popular horror films in his resume and a trailer that looked utterly terrifying, I’d expected big things from Wan’s latest release. However, the end result is far too ridiculous to be taken seriously and most worryingly of all, I couldn’t quite figure out if this was the intention.
The story opens at Simion Research Hospital in 1993, where Dr Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) and her colleagues are attempting to treat a patient named Gabriel, who has special powers, including the ability to control electricity and to communicate his thoughts via external speakers. One night he turns violent and kills numerous members of hospital staff. After managing to capture and sedate Gabriel, the film jumps to the present day to pregnant Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis).
Maddie returns home from work and gets into an argument with her husband Derek (Jake Abel) over her previous miscarriages, with the argument only ending when Derek smashes Maddie’s head into a wall. Derek is forced to sleep downstairs on the sofa where he’s awoken by noises in the middle of the night. Maddie dreams of Derek being attacked and killed, and on waking and finding his body downstairs, is then attacked by an unknown assailant and rendered unconscious.
Madison wakes the next day in the hospital, where she’s informed by her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) that she has lost her baby. In the meantime, Seattle detectives Shaw (George Young) and Moss (Michole Briana White) are investigating the home invasion and attempt to interview Maddie, weeks later she returns home. The killer kidnaps another victim and keeps her hostage in an unknown location, while Maddie has another vision, this time the murder of Dr Weaver. During the detectives’ investigation, it’s soon revealed that Maddie was adopted at the age of 8 and before this time, she was a patient of Dr Weaver’s at Simion Research Hospital. Maddie also discovers that the person responsible for the murders is Gabriel, the imaginary friend from her childhood, and must work with the detectives to try and discover the truth before Gabriel can kill again.
The opening scene for this film had me concerned, as despite being enjoyably gory, it was full of over the top melodrama and stilted dialogue and execution. The type of thing you’d expect from a B movie or a soap opera, but not from what I thought was going to be a serious horror film. I had hoped the opening scenes were a one-off and the rest of the film would settle into something more familiar, however, this didn’t happen. This entire film is like a ridiculous, over the top, clichéd B movie, from the overly dramatic soundtrack to a script that’s sole purpose seems to be for exposition, I could hardly contain myself from laughing at how absurd it all was. This wouldn’t be an issue if there was a little humour and laughs involved to show that the filmmakers are purposely playing it this way and we could laugh along with them. But everything in this is played so straight and serious that I wonder exactly what Wan’s intentions were with this film.
Due to this, I really struggled to take anything in this film seriously at all. Characters were undeveloped and clichéd, performances were poor to average at best and while the gore is welcome, it’s spoilt by being paired with an over-reliance on CGI that just looks silly. For me, it felt like Wan was trying to combine the styles of Saw and Insidious into something new, but instead of incorporating the best things about these films it just falls flat. The cinematography also falls foul of some very dodgy camera angles that further add to the overall bizarreness of the entire film. It isn’t helped by an unsurprising twist and plot points that are never adequately explained either.
If you go into this expecting the absurdity and over the top nature, Malignant could actually be quite fun. However, I found myself laughing at it rather than with it and with a bloated runtime, the ridiculous nature of the story soon became unwatchable.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!