I’m a fan of horror movies, of many genres. Movies like the Scream franchise worked because hey were self-aware, yet also had the scares, albeit jump scares. But they were pretty well done. James Wan broke out with the hit Saw, and made it to the big time with the surprising superhero blockbuster, Aquaman. But his roots are in horror and films like Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, which were creative vehicles that launched franchises that varied in quality. His latest film directorial effort, Malignant, however is not only a disappointment, but a near failure in the horror genre. It’s filled with more silliness in plot than tension, let alone scares.
Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) is an expectant mother, quickly revealed to have had several miscarriages, and married to an abusive husband. After the latest incident, he is gruesomely murdered in their house, and a shadowlike thing attacks her, causing yet another miscarriage. Detectives find no indication of forced entry and discover that the husband has a history of abuse. So naturally, she is the prime suspect. But nevermind about that as they don’t bother to really question her.
True to horror film tropes, after leaving the hospital, she goes back to her murder house because “It’s my home.” She begins to see visions of grisly murders as if she were there at the crime. Bust she is frozen in terror. As it turns out, these aren’t just visions but actual murders taking place and they are all somehow connected. When she and her younger sister (Maddie Hasson) go to the police, they are met with cynicism. Yet, there are indeed bodies turning up as described by her.
Madison seems to have a connection to this killer and the killer is targeting certain people that are associated with Madison. It is revealed that not only was Madison adopted but adopted from a facility that specializes in child reconstructive surgery. The victims were associated with her stay there.
If you remember the trashy contrived 80s slasher horror films then this should all be familiar territory. Wan is so busy trying to recreate that atmosphere that he forgot to make a decent movie. Yes, the plot reveals are telegraphed a mile away and by the time it’s revealed I no longer cared. There are some scenes that stretch credibility, even for the gere. One such is the sister being able to walk in to an abandoned hospital that looks like Arkham Asylum and recovering her sister’s records without any problems. And it’s a good thing her mother has a working VCR so they can view the video tapes that reveal the, uhm twist.
A few times the music by Joseph Bishara is bombastic and overly dramatic for the most mundane of scenes such as a slow motion shot of police arriving at a crime scene. This is yet another point of unintentional laughter from me.
There is a really well done gory scene inside a police station that is part brutal martial arts and slasher. Bodies quickly pile up in a very well done scene, but if you look at it in hindsight, is pretty silly. There really is no explanation of how this killer is so powerful, unless it really is The Devil, but we never find out. Outside of that, the movie is a slog of uninteresting main characters. The two police officers are the only ones that seem to be any fun. That could be because they act as if what is going on is ridiculous and would rather be somewhere else. That’s probably the most genuine thing in his film.
This is one of those films from Warner Brothers that is day and date in theaters as streaming on HBO-Max. If you have HBO-Max it is already included in your membership for a limited time. I don’t recommend seeing this in the theater. Is it worth streaming? Yeah, sort of. It’s watchable, but doesn’t really stand out as anything other than competently made mediocrity.