‘Malignant’ Is a Bizarre Watch That Falls Short of Expectations

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Published September 20, 2021
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Annabelle Wallis plays Madison in "Malignant." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Director James Wan, who is known for award-winning films such as “Annabelle,” “Insidious” and the “Saw” franchise, is back again with HBO Max’s “Malignant.” The film falls short of what was expected, especially for a director as experienced in horror as Wan.

“Malignant” follows Annabelle Wallis’ character, Madison, a woman adopted at a young age from a research hospital where she underwent surgery to remove a tumor that seemed to have a mind of its own. While Madison struggles to forgive her abusive husband, she begins to see visions of murders when she sleeps.

Throughout the film, Madison has to aid in stopping the murders while also battling the horrors of her past in which she forgot as a child. She is joined by her adoptive sister, Sydney, played by Maddie Hasson, who would stop at nothing to protect Madison.

Madison is always on edge. For the majority of the film, she doesn’t have a backbone of her own and often steers away from the subject when questioned about her early childhood. The only time Madison takes control of the situation is in the last 10 minutes of the film and even then it’s extremely lackluster and predictable.

Maddie Hasson (left) plays Madison's sister, Sydney. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Maddie Hasson (left) plays Madison’s sister, Sydney.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sydney is the opposite of her sister. She is strong and looks fear in the face. She is an instrumental character toward the middle of the film when investigators need help fact-checking Madison’s gruesome dreams. Sydney is the only character to keep the movie interesting and real, whereas many other parts of the film get boring and overdramatic.

“Malignant” is undoubtedly trying to achieve extreme gore. After the introduction, it seems as though not even 15 minutes go by before seeing excess blood or broken bones.

Sadly, this works against them in many, if not all, of the scenes. Unlike popular movies from the ’80s like “Friday the 13th,” this type of horror tactic often feels very gimmicky and tacky in 2021.

Another poorly executed effect in the film is the computer-generated imagery (CGI). Without giving too much away, one of the characters in the film relies heavily on effects and as you can imagine, poor CGI means a poor character. You can often see this character clipping in and out between people and even the environment.

The plot also lacks detail and precision; it has major holes that end up never being answered. By the end of this two-hour film, I was left with more questions than answers. Since the movie is not based on a book or existing material, it feels as though director Wan didn’t look at the big picture when reviewing the plot.

Madison is always on edge in the film. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Madison is always on edge in the film.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The ending of the film is a disaster on its own. Viewers are left with no explanation as to what happens to Madison when the screen fades to black. If anything, people watching are confused because no one knows if the killer is still on the loose or if Madison is safe.

The only thing that played out well is the atmosphere.

In the film, there are various scenes where Madison is alone in her home. These scenes made me feel anxious because of how quiet and ominous her environment is. Even the atmosphere in her dreams is eerie; you can tell how scared Madison is when her shaky breathing is the only audio.

Overall, the film lacks major refinement. I think many of the scenes were unnecessary as they did not help the bigger picture of the plot, while other scenes should have been explained more to help the film end with a stronger impact.

While “Malignant” isn’t 2021’s top horror film, it’s still a bizarre movie to watch for fans of the genre. You can check out “Malignant” now on HBO Max all September long.

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