Following the mysterious death of her abusive husband (Jake Abel), Madison (Annabelle Wallis) becomes the target of a malevolent entity calling itself Gabrielle. Ghastly visions of bloody murder and crackling, disembodied voices torment Madison’s every waking moment until the difference between what’s real and what’s a nightmare becomes indistinguishable.
It’s evident from the film alone that director James Wan and screenwriter Akela Cooper love themselves a good scary movie. Malignant is positively gushing with references and allusions to all eras of horror movie history. Be it a visual nod to a particular film or an aesthetic style from a certain subgenre, this is a horror film that can’t get enough of being a horror movie. And somehow Wan still manages to infuse it all with his own unique brand of horror filmmaking. The ultimate concoction is a gleefully bizarre and wholly individual experience that fans of the genre can indulgently sink their teeth into.
Holding together all the madness like a cinematic glue is Annabelle Wallis’s dynamic performance. Because the story goes in so many wild and unpredictable directions, Wallis is called upon to channel a buffet of different emotions and she sells all of them convincingly.
Also along for the Malignant ride is Joseph Bishara, the film’s composer who previously collaborated with James Wan on The Conjuring and Insidious. Like those films, Bishara’s work here is impeccable, underscoring each emotion to its core. Every time these to team up, you know the score is going to become an essential.
Up until its bonkers and brutal third act, what’s driving the story forward is its central mystery. Who is Gabrielle? Why is he tormenting Madison? Does he even exist or is he some sort of twisted coping mechanism conjured up by her subconscious in order to help her deal with her traumatic marital circumstances? Like any good cinematic conundrum, Malignant sprinkles bits and pieces of information here and there to keep its audience engaged. After all, playing along is half the fun of a movie like this. I was disappointed then to find that on more than one occasion, the films straight up lies to its viewers. I’m not talking about mere misdirects either. Multiple times Malignant fails to reconcile the fact that the new information that’s being presented does not match up with previously presented information. This makes it impossible to connect certain dots along the way. It’s frustrating for someone like me who just wants to play along with the movie.
If you are a fan of horror, then I’m confident you will find plenty to love about Malignant. From its wildly unpredictable twists and turns to its kinetic giallo-inspired cinematography; Annabelle Wallis’s captivating core performance; an instantly chilling score and gloriously indulgent gore-splattered final act, Wan is practically daring you not to have a good time.
Malignant releases wide on September 10, 2021 and is directed by James Wan from a screenplay by Akela Cooper. It stars Annabelle Willis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Michole Briana White. The film runs 111 minutes and is rated R for language, gruesome images, and strong horror violence. New Line Cinema and Atomic Monster produced the film with distribution by Warner Bros.
Those are our thoughts on Malignant. Have you had a chance yet to check out the new film from James Wan? If so, how did it hit you? Do you agree with out sentiments? Sound off in the comments below and let us and the rest of the movie loving world know your thoughts!