Review: “Malignant”: James Wan’s brings in another genre-warping, plot-twisting horror


Ben Kaiser, News Editor

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for the “Malignant” movie.

With the way movie trailers are everywhere, I didn’t see anything for this. So, this was a rare moment to go into a movie and be completely unaware of what to expect. I saw this movie weeks after it was released, so I have heard some talks about it. They were mostly mixed reviews. Some really liked it. Others thought it was boring and generic.

Even the Master of Horror, Stephen King, called the film, “brilliant,” on his Twitter. I think that should be a big deal for any horror director.

“Malignant” is directed by James Wan, who is no stranger to horror. He got his big start with the “Saw” series, directing the first movie and staying as executive producer for the rest of the series. He’s also been behind “The Conjuring” and “Insidious” movies. He directed blockbuster action films like “Furious 7” from the “Fast & Furious” series and “Aquaman.” He’ll return for the sequel, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” releasing in 2022.

“Malignant” stars Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”) as Madison Mitchell, George Young (“Containment”) as Detective Kekoa Shaw, Maddie Hasson (“Impulse”) as Sydney Lake, and Jacqueline McKenzie (“The 4400”) as Dr. Florence Weaver. Voice actor Ray Chase plays the murderous Gabriel.

The story is about Madison Mitchell, a pregnant woman who survived a violent encounter from a home invasion. The attack causes Madison to have a miscarriage and later she finds out that her abusive husband was killed in the attack. She begins to have bizarre visions and scary hauntings of the dark figure who attacked her. Her visions show strangers getting murdered by the dark figure, who reveals his name as Gabriel, and that both of them have a long history together.

Madison and her sister, Sydney, try to report the murders to the police, revealing an undiscovered murder. However, the police are suspicious of Madison’s bizarre claims, and evidence starts connecting the victims to her and her past. Madison reveals she’s an adopted child and has no memory before her adoption. Madison is unable to explain her connection to Gabriel’s victims. With hard evidence stacked against her, the police lock Madison up in jail. Sydney digs into Madison’s past, starting with an old home video showing Madison had an imaginary friend named Gabriel, whom she claimed always did bad things. Sydney discovered that Madison used to be a subject in a Research Hospital and their records unveil a shocking truth about Gabriel and Madison there. Now, she has to stop Gabriel before he kills everyone, including Madison and her.

At first, the film seems to be a ghost story. Before Gabriel’s attack in Madison’s home, he seems to be a ghost. Madison’s boyfriend sees him at first in the dark, but as soon as he turns on the light, he instantly disappears. Also, he appears and disappears without a trace. But then, you’ll start thinking Gabriel is an imaginary friend that wants revenge for Madison outgrowing her. Or maybe it’s a split-personality story. Maybe, she’s just crazy. Or, perhaps, the big twist in the movie is of all of the above, from a certain point of view…

For a horror film, it’s not exactly a scary one. It has some good moments; there’s a scene where after Gabriel disappears on a couch, the depression where Gabriel was sitting is still there. It’s a chilling effect when you see the depression lift as “invisible Gabriel” stands up. But as Gabriel is shown more on-screen, the scare factor disappears and turns more into a slasher type deal. I’m not marking the film down for that, because the fight scenes are pretty cool. Gabriel has a particular way of moving, with awkward, jerky motions as he walks and moves. Yet, he is fast and incredibly strong. He takes a whole station of armed police officers down with just a knife; jumping and flipping everywhere like a psycho killer Simone Biles in a trench coat.

Even if it wasn’t scary, “Malignant” does have some impressive creepy scenes, especially with the “visions” Madison would experience. She would be frozen in place, forced to watch Gabriel kill. Whatever room she was in would “melt away” and morph into wherever Gabriel was. Neither Gabriel nor his victims would be able to see Madison when she is frozen in the room, although Gabriel would notice her in her last vision, glaring at her with his gnarly-looking face.

James Wan is pretty good with plot twists, and I think this film’s twist makes it more than just another psycho killer slasher film. Obviously, I won’t ruin it for you, but when you see it, it is shocking, gross, and is actually a pretty cool idea! More importantly, it’s an ORIGINAL idea, and that is so rare these days. I enjoyed the film, watching a bizarre mystery that was drawing to a conclusion that I would never have predicted.