Malignant is many things. It’s proof that James Wan lost none of his horror chops having made the leap to massive big budget fare like Aquaman and the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s a high camp tribute to giallo, filtered through the lens of a guy whose first movie involved the her sawing off his own foot. It’s also a film you can pretty much figure out in the first 20 minutes, but then become more and more delighted as that solution metastasizes into a truly ridiculous climax that will have you laughing and cringing in equal measure.
THE QUICK SUMMARY: Madison Lake is a nurse in a bad situation. She’s been trying to have a child with an abusive partner, and after a particularly nasty episode is visited by a spectral something that murders her partner and leaves her in the hospital. Soon Madison starts having visions of this same killer murdering other people, only to wake and find out the murders are real? Who is the killer? What’s their connection to Madison, and do you think it has anything to do with the creepy science institute on the hill and the fact that Madison can’t remember anything before being adopted when she was nine? You bet, but that doesn’t stop Malignant from going to 11 with the freaky gore, unbelievable coincidences, and cringe-worthy banter that nonetheless will have you giggling like a loon as the blood splatters anywhere and everywhere.
The usual staples of James Wan’s directing are present: you get long, winding takes and dynamic camera angles like a great one that follows Madison around her house from above, moving from room to room and sometimes getting blocked by another room. The color scheme is pure Argento: the scenes are garishly lit in contrasting reds and blues and yellows without any thought to reality, but to accentuate the tone and mood Wan is going for.
Similar to giallo, there are plenty of POV shots that lend dread and tension, but where Malignant really pulls its weight is in the far-fetched solution (which I won’t spoil here) and in the way it depicts its villain. It’s a obvious effect, but one that initially is super freaky to see. And then when you understand why that particular effect is being used (similar to why star Annebelle Wallis looks like she’s wearing a ridiculous wig) it’s another laugh out loud moment in the best way a silly splatter movie can provide.
Malignant may not be a great film, and honestly besides one or two small jump scares it’s not very frightening, but it is an absolute blast to watch, and sometimes that’s the best kind of horror movie.