James Wan’s newest horror film, Malignant is something that really needs to be seen without any prior input on it. If there’s any way you can watch it – whether you see it in theatres or on HBO Max up until October 10th – It’s definitely worth it. Right after watching it, I contacted my cousin and begged her to watch it without moviepooping it. She never watches a movie without already knowing the outcome – who lives, who dies. If she doesn’t, the anxiety that hits her is great. She twitches in her chair, covers her face, screams and gives every reaction you to hope to experience in a movie theatre. She agreed to do so, and I can’t wait to hear her thoughts on this. I’m almost compelled to head out to a theatre, sit in the back and watch the audience.
You’re better off not reading this and just coming back later, after you’ve seen it. I’ll try not to give too much away.
When I think of popular couples in horror, the first one that comes to mind is Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel. James Wan & his wife, Ingrid Bisu may be joining that group. Along with screenwriter Akela Cooper (The 100), the three writers provide Malignant with enough jumps and mouth covers for me to enjoy the ride. Is it perfect? No. It might actually be offensive and/or triggering to a few people, depending on what they’re going through in life, but every movie has the capacity to do that without realizing it.
When mother to be Madison (Annabelle Wallis, Annabelle) suffers an injury, she begins to have visions of a figure causing murders. Much like Neil Jordan’s In Dreams, Madison visions give her a tie to the killer, who may be someone from her past. With the police involved in the form of Agent Kekoa Shaw (George Young, Containment) and his partner, Regina Moss (Michole Briana White, She Hate Me), they work with Annabelle to pursue the killer.
Malignant has it’s share of great shots. There’s one wonderful overhead sequence that takes place which reminded me a little of Minority Report, along with Wan’s usual work with lights and shadow. Smoky alleyways and barely lit hallways just add to Malignant’s creepiness. All of this is anchored by both Wallis’ performance, a mix of quiet tension and wide eyed horror, and by Maddie Hasson (Underdogs), who plays her sister Sidney. Sidney is the source of Malignant‘s more comedic quips, along with Ingrid Bisu, who plays the Forensic Investigator. The movie strikes a good balance there, I felt.
From a writing standpoint, there’s enough misdirection to keep the audience guessing, but it doesn’t do in a way that lies to them. On my 2nd viewing (I’m on my 3rd while writing this), the elements that seemed strange really do make sense. There’s also tidbits of humor placed throughout the movie. It doesn’t make it a comedy by any means, but it’s nice to be to chuckle once in a while. It does make one huge mistake (for me, anyway) that almost completely lost me early on, a conversation between sisters that made me wonder why such information wasn’t already known between them over all the time they knew each other. You’ll probably be able to recognize it when it occurs.
Malignant is a tight 1 hour and 51 minutes, but it’s paced so well that the film feels like it’s almost over before you know it. As much as I enjoyed it, that was one of the other problems I had with the film. Not a terrible thing in any way. It hooks you from the start, gives you some great jumps and reveals through the middle. The 2nd half of the movie kind of pushes the pedal to the floor and guns it. I can think of at least two films that Malignant references, but I’ll maybe write about them some other time.
Overall, Malignant is a great Halloween treat, with James Wan & Co. showing everyone how it’s done. It gets strange, but when all’s said and done, you’ll be thankful for the ride. Just go in blind, turn off all the lights, take it for what it is and enjoy.