James Wan is back after five years, directing Malignant. The horror category has put his name on the list of one of the greatest directors of this particular genre. He has been associated with some of the most successful and highly rated slasher/horror movies such as “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring.” The film is streaming on HBO Max and in theaters.
What’s special about Wan is that he has the eye to make surprisingly amazing content with low budgets, focusing on the effectiveness of jump scares and creating a gloomy and eerie visual atmosphere. The visual aspects have been excellently done; with Wan’s expertise in the genre, he plays well, turning cliches into treasures. Furthermore, the use of the sound of cracking bones makes sense with the plot of the story. This almost gets the audience so involved on the screen that some might even forget that they’re not inside the film. Although a fan Tweeted,
#Malignant is a game-changer. Defying the boundaries of genre film, Wan has created something unique and terrifying. It's a beautifully deranged work of art that is destined to become a cult classic. A love letter to the genre & its fans, this is Wan at his best. pic.twitter.com/Gohi7RAW3u
— Shannon McGrew 🎃🍭 @ Screaming Into the Void (@shannon_mcgrew) September 8, 2021
The storyline revolves around two sisters, one of them has an optimistic and happy-go-lucky character while the other one is haunted and probably possessed. To reveal much would be destroying the film’s most unique quality, which is its readiness to smoothly and intentionally bring the film down to a wild excitement for the audience maintaining its insanity and the going keep going further.
The audience is shocked in its third act by revealing that Madison (Annabelle Wallis) has a parasitic twin, Gabriel (voiced by Ray Chase). Gabriel, a humanoid-shaped black figure with long stringy hair, has been dormant inside of Madison her whole life, but when her abusive husband smashes her head against a wall, Gabriel wakes up and is able to hijack her body to commit murders.
Madison begins to see the murder of a supernatural shade named Gabriel. The shade is out for vengeance from the enemies who did him wrong in his early life. It does not take Madison long to understand that Gabriel is an entity that is connected to her own mysterious past. And it is only her who can stop Gabriel from this killing spree.
After a prologue set in a nightmarish medical facility, the film introduces us to Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a buttoned-down Seattle woman still working a tiring day job well into her pregnancy. She’s had several miscarriages already, for which her abusive alcoholic husband Derek (Jake Abel) clearly blames her, and one night he brutally slams her head into a wall after an argument. Later, Madison awakes from a violent dream to find her husband’s mangled body in the kitchen and is then attacked by a shadowy marionette-like figure, which knocks her unconscious.
— kindertrauma® (@kindertrauma) September 14, 2021
When she wakes up in the hospital, Madison has lost her pregnancy and has also been reunited with her estranged younger sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson), a struggling actress who resolves to take care of her from here on out. Madison heads home and attempts to return to normal life, only to begin experiencing waking nightmares in which she is paralyzed as she watches the same spindly killer who previously attacked her gruesomely dispatch a whole swath of mysterious strangers. These murders, however, are not just occurring in her imagination.
Two detectives, Kekoa Shaw (George Young) and Regina Moss (Michole Briana White), arrive on the scene and try to piece together what happened.
Gabriel’s supernatural abilities get frustrating to watch as they switch from scene to scene, and you never get to settle your mind on the powers he possesses. However, later on, at least, his figure develops when he is brought to life, mixing in a subtle blend of CG effects which become more prominent as the movie progresses. This results in a really good body horror effect.
Akela Cooper’s script makes sure to throw in at least one dramatic revelation every 15 minutes or so, each more stupefying than the last. And this gets kind of annoying after a certain point. However, the film embraces all genre’s most disreputable conventions making you laugh, rolling on the floor on inappropriate scenes. You’ll often think to yourself, WTH am I watching?
Cinematography by Michael Burgess
Directed by James Wan pic.twitter.com/D8BG12Ca0p
— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) September 11, 2021
However, Wan, who excels in creating complete tension and make heartbeats race, has this time been conflicted with some miscalculation. Malignant is overstuffed with Wan’s ideas of horror, which do not completely close well, leaving audiences unsatisfied. It seems like more weightage to sound and frenzy has been given rather than actual gore, tension, and dread. It is hard to imagine that anyone involved in making this film took it entirely seriously, but hardly ever do the masks slip, and as broad as some of the performances get, they never lapse into tongue-in-cheek knowingness.
It seems like Wan has been unsuccessful with this project, at least, compared to the masterpieces he has created in the past. There is a dark spoofy tone to the film, which fails to create the right feels, unlike Raimi’s work which is seriously chilling yet funny in the correct propositions.
Not much else to add to the #Malignant conversation but I honestly haven’t laughed and been that giddy over a bonkers coocoofuckingbananas movie in ages. The wigs. The bad parking on a cliff. The holding cell. The twists. The tumors. God bless James Wan.
— christopher landon (@creetureshow) September 11, 2021
Variety’s Andrew Barker commented,
Watching him construct a jump-scare-laden stabbing scene at this point in his career is like listening to an accomplished concert pianist toss of yet another run through ‘Für Elise’ — and his willingness to simply go for it, especially as the film careens through its ludicrously gory final act.