Director: James Wan
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: After suffering a traumatic attack, Madison is plagued by terrifying apparitions of the murders of seeming strangers. To her horror, these visions are not just hallucinations but a reality. As the prime suspect, Madison teams up with her sister Sydney to uncover who is committing these murders and how they tie to Madison.
James Wan’s impact on the horror genre is undeniable, the driving force behind three successful series in the Saw movies, the Insidious series, and The Conjuring cinematic universe, Wan has been shaping the horror landscape since the early 2000s. While the Saw series devolved into just torture porn and any excuse to up the ante with gory ways to kill off the usually unlikable cast, the original Saw (both created and directed by Wan) was an intelligent and nail-biting film filled with moral conundrums, a fantastic twist, a memorable villain and a killer soundtrack. Wan’s acclaimed filmography and success at the box office have clearly bought him a lot of confidence in Hollywood, a faith he used to secure a studio budget for one of the craziest horror films in the last two decades.
The initial marketing for Malignant sold it as a modern Giallo-inspired horror film harkening back to the works of horror maestro, Dario Argento. For the film’s opening thirty minutes, the Giallo style is evident from a killer hidden in shadow, vibrant lighting and colours, and a suspenseful atmosphere. Wan then pulls the wool over the viewer’s eyes revealing he has actually trojan-horsed a big-budget schlockfest bearing more similarities to B movie cult classics in the vein of Basket Case, Re-Animator, and Dead Alive. This sudden shift in tone is often just as hilarious as it is horrifying with Wan upping the stakes and gore in equal measure.
Spoilers Ahead, Although is it really spoilers when the film has been released over a year ago?!!!
The Killer is behind you…..like literally; he’s hidden in the back of the film’s protagonist. Our mysterious killer Gabriel turns out to be an evil reverse-placed version of Quato from Total Recall, a tumourous parasitic twin that can take over Madison’s body, putting her in a fugue state while he claims his victims. The reveal scene is just as bonkers as it sounds on paper and adds another hilarious dynamic to the film as it explains the jerky movements of the killers as Gabriel runs around in Madison’s body backwards.
This bombshell reveal could have been enough to wrap the film there and then but Wan only ups the ante with an insane third act that can only be described as an action horror movie. With Madison taking the fall for Gabriel’s murders she’s held in a holding cell with what can only be described as a gallery of cellmates from different decades of history from afros to mullets, denim jackets to sequins. Gabriel decides no mere cell can hold him as he bursts out of the back of Madison’s head and massacres the cell mates and then the entire police precinct. It’s a thrilling sequence with amazing action choreography for a horror film with plenty of gore and grizzly kills to boot. Perhaps a little too humourous for its own good, this third act hammers home just how little the film is taking itself too seriously which proved divisive for audiences.
The best way to sum up Malignant is the conversation I had with two friends on the way to see it in the cinema. It was to be my second viewing and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see their reactions to the film. As we were driving up one friend asked me if the film is any good? My response was that there’s a reveal halfway through the film where you have a choice to get on board with it and all it entails or you are just going to find it daft. Go onto the IMDB ratings for the Malignant now and the amount of 5-star and 1-star reviews back up my logic.