Malignant is one of those horror movies that if you go into it expecting one thing, you’re going to be disappointed. At 44, James Wan has done so much for the horror franchise that every now and again, he should be forgiven for cutting loose a little.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Saw movies because torture porn isn’t my thing. But I did like the first two Conjuring movies and I liked the first Insidious even as moments got a little too absurd.
Much as been discussed about the third act of Malignant that I think it’s just Wan telling us to relax and it’s only a movie. My main problem with Malignant is its length which is about 10-15 minutes too long especially when you consider it rehashes several a lot. The middle part is the most boring.
But let me start by saying if you’re not familiar with the Italian horror movies made popular by Dario Argento or the body horror movies David Cronenberg made, you won’t like Malignant. Wan even goes back 50 years before he was born to bring elements of 1970s horror.
A movie like this never really tells you where it’s going but the journey there is quite a ride. When it begins in 1993 at the Simion Research Hospital, two doctors, Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) and Victor Fields (Christian Clemenson) are treating a patient named Gabriel who has the abilities to control electricity and broadcasting his thoughts. This prologue leads to a violent scene as Gabriel kills several staff members.
Then, we cut to present times in which a pregnant woman, Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis), is living in Seattle with her husband, Derek Mitchell. An argument turns violent and he smashed her head against the wall in the bedroom. Madison is able to lock herself in the bedroom but later that night, a shadowy figure appears in the house and kills Derek and later attacks Madison.
She wakes up in a hospital only to learn that she’s lost the baby. We also learn this is not the first time and she’s suffered many miscarriages over the past few years. Two detectives, Kekoa Shaw (George Young) and Regina Moss (Michole Briana White) investigate Derek’s murder and suspect that it could have been the result of the years of abuse Madison endured.
After returning to her home after being released from the hospital, Madison tells her younger sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson), that Madison was adopted. Home videos reveal that when Madison was younger, she was talking to an “imaginary friend” named Gabriel but Gabriel made her think and say terrible things that her adoptive parents got on to her so she repressed any thoughts of Gabriel like most kids do.
There’s a subplot about a host of the Seattle Underground Tour being kidnapped by the shadowy figure, Gabriel, and is tied in what appears to be an attic of an undisclosed house. The Gabriel character who speaks in a deep gravely voice tells the woman played Jean Louisa Kelly that she’s responsible for undisclosed past events.
Going back to the house, Madison begins to see visions of both Drs. Weaver and Fields being killed in grisly deaths. This leads to Sydney going to the hospital to find some answers as she’s able to trace Madison’s history there before she was adopted.
I can’t say anymore because it reveals too much. This is a horror movie that never really tells the audience where it’s going and when we do, it goes in another direction. The part in the middle with the detectives is the least interesting and I think Wan is trying to throw us a curve by suggesting a possible connection between Kekoa and Madison.
Now, the third act revelation and climax is the make or break moment for many audiences. I can’t say I was a little surprised but I found it to be a little over the top.
Sometimes, movie plot twists come out of left field that don’t earn it. (Side-eye to the awful Sorry to Bother You.) The way Wan reveals the twist is creepy and would’ve been effective if he held more restraint. I don’t even know if it’s medically possible. But a lot of things in horror movies aren’t medically possible. Maybe Wan’s goal was to go for broke in a balls-to-the-wall climax.
So far, people have been divided over this movie according to the Internet. I’ve heard from people who like it and those who don’t. Horror movies are already a genre that aren’t for everyone and you’ll either love this or hate it.