Malignant (2021): What the…What?

It isn’t news that James Wan is a notably formidable presence in the horror world. While I generally enjoy (most of) his work, I can’t say that I predicted what Malignant would end up being.

If you’re reading this than you must know me or have at least have an indication (from my site name alone) that I’m someone who enjoys being surprised in horror and in the weird. Well, I’m happy to say that all three of these words would come up in a thought bubble when referring to this film. This is a very weird, surprising, horror film.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

After a horribly traumatic event Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins seeing strange hallucinations, as if she is there, with people being murdered. The who and what of these visions is eventually explained, but it has her digging into her own past, and questioning reality.

Told in a narrative design that upends as much as it does stall for answers, Malignant takes its time with clarity and then explodes into what I can only describe as the right kind of outrageousness.

It’s a film that isn’t afraid to take risks and doesn’t mind getting encompassed by the strange. The third act is really where it comes to life in absurd wild fashion providing a twist that is really unexpected.

I found myself actually laughing at the first scene where the twist is revealed, both out of surprise and also entertainment. It’s wild in its delivery, but it’s honestly what saved the movie for me. I often wondered after if I wished I could have known early on, but it wouldn’t have been as shocking if I had.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Malignant takes on an often dream-like, nearly trippy quality, and plays out some pretty impressive visuals that cascade over even the least flattering parts of the script. Some of the dialogue and by extension, acting, seems a bit off, but one wonders if that was part of Wan‘s decision with the film, which feels at once retro and also new. Often times the film seems to be self-aware and making a remark on itself as much as horror movies in general. As you watch you feel like it’s formulaic, but then comes a heavy swing that has you seeing past the tropes first pitched to you.

Sometimes the pieces don’t completely fit. In fact, they’re tossed at you like discarded notes throughout, but once you tape it all together it -well- still looks whacky, but it at least makes you feel less confused, and giddily intrigued.

It’s memorable, it’s bonkers, it’s Wan but more unhinged than he’s been. And yes, he made Saw. There’s camp, there’s creepy, and there’s most certainly a dose of wait…what? The final act is frenzied, bloodied and unrelenting.

Undoubtedly, Malignant will be a film that doesn’t hit all audiences in the same way. As a movie that embraces its outrageousness with open arms, there’s a admirable quality that may often get looked at as too far reaching, but I dug it.

Malignant is current in theaters and on HBO Max until October 10th