In his latest interviews, James Wan had assured that his recently released Malignant would be very different from his past horror films. And after watching the Annabelle Wallis starrer drama, we agree with the director. In fact, Malignant is so different that we have a hard time believing that it has been helmed by the same person who gave us critical and commercial horror hits like The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, and the first two Insidious films.
Malignant starts off with a group of doctors facing off against what appears to be a super-strong, psychic patient. After they manage to calm him down, they decide that it’s time “to cut out the cancer.” The story then jumps twenty-eight years forward and we meet the pregnant Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis), who has suffered many miscarriages in the last two years. Her husband, Derek (Jake Abel), is a violent man and angry at his wife for not being able to give him a child. In his rage, he smashes her head against the wall one day, leaving a dent in the wall and a streak of blood. From here starts a string of murders where Madison suddenly finds herself unable to move while her surroundings warp into unknown locations where she witnesses a shadowy figure viciously murdering his victims. Once the murder is committed, she wakes up back in her house, with no signs that she was at the crime scene in the first place.
While the concept of the film is new and unique, the absence of logic kills whatever potential it could have had. Forget logic per se, the story tends to throw out its own reasoning, established within its walls, out of the window more than once. Now, there is not much that can be said about Malignant without divulging a few details about its messy plot. So, in case, you want to be freshly disappointed by the James Wan-directed horror hazard, please skip the next two paragraphs.
So, the main plotline of Malignant is that this entity, this shadowy figure, Gabriel, is a parasitic twin that Madison was born with, attached to the back of her head and having dominance over her mind. It was partially removed sometime later to allow the girl to have a normal life. But this “brother” was awoken when Derek hit Madison. Thus the murders we see happening is actually him asserting his dominance over Madison and using her body to commit these crimes while sticking her in a comatose state wherein she is seeing what he wants her to see- whether it is the murders or some other scenario. So, he is physically a part of her and can’t detach himself like some spirit. That’s the intrinsic logic in the film that is revealed in the latter half of the film.
But from the beginning, Wan dumps his own established logic in favor of setting up a spooky atmosphere. Like in one of the early scenes, Madison wakes up after witnessing a brutal murder, shrugs it off as a bad dream, and actually walks in on the murder scene where she witnesses this brother of hers crouching next to the dead body. He pursues her, stops her from leaving, and even attacks her which causes her to lose her baby. Now, as he is a part of her body, unable to leave, how did this above scene occur? Seems like Wan was more interested in scaring audiences than properly following his own plot-logic.
There are countless other lapses and often an outright absence of logic in Malignant, right up until the film hastily wraps up its messy storyline with an even sloppier end. To make matters worse, Annabelle Wallis as well as the rest of the cast aren’t exactly on par with the level of acting expected from the film. They are either disappointingly dull or so into theatrics and overdramatizing a scene that the better option is to just duck your head and focus on your popcorn then burst a vein in frustration over it. But hey, it’s a free country and you are obviously allowed to evaluate the “merits” of this latest serving from James Wan. Just let it be known that we did warn you in advance.