James Wan’s new film MALIGNANT, showing both in theatres and on HBO Max wants you to think it’s a clever psychological horror film. On the surface, it seems to have all of the elements for this as well. Melancholic female protagonist with a mysterious past who keeps having inexplicable miscarriages. CHECK. Mysterious dreams and visions of murders that may or may not be real, CHECK. A mysterious antagonist that might be a ghost or demon or monster or some other supernatural phenomena or maybe a serial killer. CHECK.
After a decent set-up, the film quickly drops into clunky dialogue, cheesy effects, and a story that made me realize this script needed an extra rewrite or two. There are some really interesting elements in the film, but they just don’t quite add up. The intrigue and horror feel patched together, hanging on by an adequate, yet chilling score from Joseph Bishara who has worked with Wan many times in the past on THE CONJURING 1&2, ANNABELLE, INSIDIOUS, and more.
Most of MALIGNANT proceeds as a below-average thriller. By the time our protagonist (Annabelle Wallis as Madison) comes to realize what is truly happening, my guess is that you’ll have figured most of it out already as I did before the first act was over.
And then, this is where the TRUE twist happens, not in the story, but in the style of the film. The 3rd act is an entirely different film aesthetically and it’s 100% more entertaining. You’ll say to yourself, “What the hell is going on? No, seriously, WHAT THE HELL?!” MALIGNANT goes bonkers in the final 20 minutes. As if a completely unrelated screenwriter picked up the script, downed a 6-pack of Four Loko (before the reformulation), cracked their knuckles, and said “I know exactly what this story needs!” It’s silly and it’s foolish, but it saved this film from being a 🤮 for me. I didn’t realize until I had it, that I needed this film to pick up another horror/thriller sub-genre to save it from itself.
MALIGNANT is currently playing in theatres and on HBO Max.