After going through a traumatizing event, Madison starts having visions of grisly murders which are carried out by her childhood imaginary friend, Gabriel. Having believed that Gabriel was just a figment of her own imagination, she must try to figure out who he really is and why he has come back to torment her and those around her.
James Wan, after an absence from the horror genre since Conjuring 2 (as a director, at least) he is now finally back with a brand new movie: Malignant. And while most people connect James Wan with haunted houses, ghosts and demons (because of the Conjuring and Insidious movies), he stated early on that Malignant would be something completely different. And that, indeed, it is.
At the movie’s opening, we go back to 1993 and witness a large, gothic building which is some kind of medical research facility, where the researchers are struggling with a patient called Gabriel, who kills and maims the nurses. We get a slight glimpse of this “Gabriel” fellow, and then we fast forward to present day and meet Madison, who lives in a beautiful victorian house with just the right exterior and interior for a proper creepy atmosphere. And of course, we step right into James Wan-ish territory with creepy hallways and things moving in the dark. While building up at first to be somewhat Conjuring-esque, it shifts and mixes in what is an obvious homage to giallo films (for those who don’t know, “Giallo” is a term for murder mystery thrillers with lots of blood and gruesome murders, mixed with detective/suspense elements).
While it definitely felt good to be able to see another horror movie directed by James Wan, I can easily see how people might be a bit divided regarding their experience with this movie. Those who expect James Wan to have done another movie in the same vein as his haunted house flicks, might be put off due to this being something completely different. In fact, while we were watching it at the big screen, there were some people who left the theater when the first bloody murder scene was shown. Clearly, some people didn’t expect the movie to take that route, despite it having been given a strict R rating…but perhaps they thought that this rating was given because of titty scenes or something (which there are none by the way). Who the fuck knows.
James Wan did indeed do something very different with Malignant, and to be honest it was quite a pleasant surprise. Therefore, my advice would be to see this movie and not expect some kind of “Conjuring 4” or whatever. This isn’t a new haunted house flick, it ain’t another jump-scare carousel. It’s a throwback to the late 80’s/90’s slasher/thriller/giallo films, and if you’re familiar with these kinds of movies you’re most likely going to take a lot of the references (like the color usage, the killer wearing black gloves, etc.). Malignant is a decent slasher with atmosphere and creepy scenes, and a good amount of effective blood ‘n gore.
Director: James Wan
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Amir AboulEla, Mercedes Colon, Ingrid Bisu, Ruben Pla, Jon Lee Brody, Ray Chase, Mckenna Grace