It’s a gory and original new film from the creator of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring
Unstoppable filmmaker James Wan makes his bold return to the world of horror after five long years with Malignant, a film that continuously goes one way and then another in delightfully unexpected and increasingly insane ways. Wan, who has continuously made his mark on the horror scene by kicking off franchises like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring as well as dipping his toes into massive blockbuster affairs like Furious 7 and Aquaman (both of which earned over a billion dollars at the box office), tackles his latest project like someone who’s been dying to stretch his legs and let loose. The result isn’t simply one of the best movies in his already exceptionally impressive catalogue, but an experience that ends up being so relentlessly and unapologetically silly that it becomes one of the most entertaining watches of the entire year.
Malignant is the story of a woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who’s been suffering from constant abuse at the hands of her husband Derek (Jake Abel). One day, after a pregnant and exhausted Madison returns home from work only to have her head smashed into the wall by Derek, she locks herself in the bedroom for the rest of the evening, bleeding and weeping. That very night, someone or something comes into their home, brutally murdering Derek and sending Madison to the hospital. In the following days, she begins to have paralyzing visions of the killer going after other victims, and with the help of her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson), Madison must attempt to make sense of the horrific images she’s seeing and keep a pair of detectives (George Young and Michole Briana White) off her back.
The film’s first act largely sees Wan and cinematographer Michael Burgess (Annabelle Comes Home, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It) delivering the familiar kind of haunted house scares that Wan made a name for himself with. The way scenes will suddenly hold for longer that you’ve gotten accustomed to or the way the sound and score will suddenly drop out immediately help set an atmosphere of tense dread. Malignant‘s mysterious killer often appears supernatural in nature, and having characters dumbly investigate strange noises or things turning on and off in the middle of the night comes second to Wan at this point, who still manages to prove that he can make you jump and squirm when you’re least expecting it.
But then the film pivots from suspenseful chills to full-on slasher mode. No stranger to indulging in a bit of gooey gory goodness, Wan stages several sequences of vicious murders that poor Madison is forced into being a witness to over and over. Once Malignant reaches its third act, things pivot once again and you realize that you genuinely don’t know where this movie is headed, in the very best of ways. In addition to directing, Wan also wrote the film alongside his wife Ingrid Besu and Akela Cooper (Luke Cage, Grimm), and what they have is something that wears its various B-movie inspirations on its sleeve yet still feels wholly original. It’s undeniably and predominantly a horror movie – one with numerous real scares – but it’s so much more as well; a perfectly portioned blend of genres that allows Wan’s eccentric style to run more wild than it ever has.
With a dazzling and standout score from longtime Wan collaborator Joseph Bishara, who also sounds like he’s been given the direction to have fun with things, Malignant arrives at such a deliriously absurd yet incredibly entertaining place that it’s impossible for it not to be memorable. That’s a big deal in the age of streaming where oversaturated and conveyor belt-like productions have led to far too many movies that are instantly forgettable. This film leaves a lasting impression just by its sheer boldness. It’s the kind of outrageously weird horror that you’d normally only find on a place like Shudder, not HBO Max (where this film is currently streaming at the same time of its theatrical release) or Netflix.
If you’re looking for something different, something that just keeps getting weirder and crazier, but has a nice fat budget and is made by one of the modern masters of horror, then look no further. That should be everyone. Malignant is easily one of the best horror movies of the year. It’s certainly a contender for the craziest.
‘Malignant’ is now playing in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max throughout September.