Malignant has the potential to become a cult classic in the years to come since its initial release. It’s a modern Giallo horror film from a mastermind responsible for launching three major franchises. An outlandish concept that if executed by someone else it wouldn’t offer the same experience. Malignant is a gory treat that proves James Wan still has a lot to offer the horror genre. If it becomes a franchise, Wan may have created the next icon.
The resurgence of the slasher genre continues with this twisted concept from Wan. While prepping, Wan expressed his goal with this film was to deliver a fresh concept under his brand. Malignant certainly differs from his previous work, but his brilliant style shines through. Directed by James Wan and written by Adela Cooper. Malignant stars George Young, Michole Briana White, Ray Chase, Maddie Hasson, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Mckenna Grace, and Annabelle Wallis. The film follows Madison (Wallis), a woman with a troubled past who starts experiencing visions of people being murdered. The murders are linked to a person named Gabriel, someone from Madison’s past who is out for revenge.
Madison is introduced as a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. A simple but effective aspect to get audiences invested in her. She’s had numerous miscarriages and was put up for adoption at a young age. Little time is wasted on establishing her as the final girl with a murky background. The film begins in the early ’90s but jumps to the present after a heart-pounding opening to introduce Gabriel. It’s clear Madison and Gabriel have a connection and most viewers will piece together the puzzle early on. However, Cooper and Wan have a more diabolical connection that makes it almost impossible to predict. Malignant does rely on cheap jump scares that aren’t some of Wan’s best. The scares keep you engaged, but lack build-up and are very predictable to spot.
Madison’s life takes a sinister turn after Gabriel’s crimes create legal trouble for her. It’s a typical law enforcement that believes the victim is secretly the killer scenario. Audiences know she’s innocent, but are made to doubt the events unfolding on screen. The way Wan executes this script makes for an exhilarating watch. He was channeling his time on Aquaman and Fast & Furious 7. Malignant’s mystery could have benefited from revealing certain material in a different order. Exposition dumping seemed to have become more important over trusting the audience. Audiences will witness the events and shortly after a character will provide in-depth details about what was on screen previously.
Gabriel is a terrifying presence, so it’s disappointing that the way it unfolds weakens his mysterious nature. Madison is a likable protagonist but feels outshined by the supporting characters. Wallis’ performance is effective and she will have viewers feeling sorry for Madison, while also remaining just as intrigued by Gabriel as she is. During Madison’s hardship, her sister Sydney (Hasson) keeps her company. Their bond is at the heart of Malignant and creates an emotional edge once the film truly kicks in. Hasson’s performance as Wallis’ concerned little sister is heartwarming to witness. The chemistry between the two enhances Madison and Sydney’s growth throughout the film.
Wan keeps the audience’s blood boiling from the chaotic opening to the bonkers conclusion. Malignant is paced very fast for the majority of its runtime. This doesn’t take away from audiences getting enough time to grow attached to Madison. He captures some chilling shots, such as when Gabriel first appears inside Madison’s house. The lighting along with Joseph Bishara’s score creates a dreadful feeling during that scene. Wan’s signature zoom-in on terrifying objects is always a pleasure to see on screen. Malignant has its flaws, but Wan’s commitment to its concept is impressive. Bishara’s score feels like a character at times. Sure it may not complement every scene, but the music teleports you into the world of Malignant every time it plays.
Malignant is Wan’s soon-to-be cult classic that many horror fans will love to revisit. It has a unique slasher equipped with the year’s best weapon used in a horror film. Stepping outside of the traditional haunted house films Wan had been doing has allowed him to create a fun film for the genre. Malignant isn’t a masterpiece, but the way it’s executed will have fans of the genre praising Wan for stepping out of his usual approach.