Starring Annabelle Wallis, George Young
Scott’s Review #1,294
Reviewed August 30, 2022
James Wan is a fantastic director responsible for co-creating the Saw (2003-2017) and Insidious (2010-2018) franchises. Anyone familiar with those films will enjoy Malignant (2021) since it borrows from them and is peppered with trimmings from those films.
In particular, it taps into supernatural elements of Insidious and the mood and score from Saw. Malignant even copies the gruff and robotic phone caller’s voice that was Jigsaw’s trademark and used in Saw. It’s not as threatening but it brings back those memories.
The result of Malignant is mixed but mostly good. It’s not one bit scary like Insidious was but not gratuitously gory like the Saw films though it has its moments of butchering.
Though utterly ridiculous, the conclusion of Malignant contains a terrific twist and a weird supernatural CGI contortionist choreography extravaganza that somehow reminded me of The Matrix (1999).
The storyline twist must have been influenced by Sisters (1973), an early effort by director Brian DePalma. It could be deemed as silly but somehow it’s my favorite part of the film.
Wan reaches into his magical bag of tricks and pulls out some wins. He also demands suspension of disbelief, which is okay in supernatural horror films but many points of the story do not add up.
Malignant begins in 1993 when Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline MacKenzie) and her colleagues treat a violent, disturbed patient named Gabriel at Simion Research Hospital. Gabriel can control electricity and broadcast his thoughts via speakers. He kills several staff members but Weaver survives and deems him untreatable.
Years later, Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) becomes paralyzed by fear from shocking visions. She slowly realizes that when a murder victim dies she is in the room with them witnessing their gruesome death.
Gabriel is on the loose and intent on killing Dr. Weaver and her colleagues for calling him cancer, and Madison is somehow involved. She and her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) must sleuth along with the police to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Malignant does well with the mood and tone of the filming. It has a dark grey quality plentiful in modern horror films and fans of Insidious and Saw will enjoy this familiar style of filmmaking. It’s set in Seattle which is a wise choice though all we get are some aerial views of the city, specifically the Space Needle.
Because it’s directed by Wan, it’s professional and contains the horror elements to be expected. There’s even a giant window fan that I swear I’ve seen in a Saw film. Wan knows what he is doing and the name recognition alone was enough to get me to see the film.
It’s not an ‘A’ but it does what a modern horror film is supposed to do and that’s to entertain. Malignant is not groundbreaking but it’s sound.
The plot holes are not worth dissecting beyond asking why there are no other patients in a large city hospital, a device that has existed since at least Halloween II in 1981, but that’s just the beginning.
Malignant annoyed me when it decided to add some humor. A sidekick character, Detective Regina Moss (Michole Briana White) bares an uncanny resemblance to funny lady Wanda Sykes. Unfortunately, her one-liners feel thrown in for kicks, and a blossoming romance between Sydney and Detective Kokoa (George Young) goes nowhere.
During these scenes, I felt like I was watching Chicago Med or Chicago Fire or any one of those other generic network television shows.
Fortunately, the scenes were brief and Wan returned to the point of the film- blood, killing, and chaos.
Lead actress Wallis is a fine casting choice. Pretty but relatable, she carries the film as the victim especially as more to her backstory is revealed.
Films like Malignant (2021) require putting the breaks on any deep analysis and merely going along for the ride. It’s entertaining and that’s good enough for me. With Wan at the helm, I anticipated a particular type of horror film and was ultimately satisfied with what I was served.