New Line Cinema
Written by James Wan, Akela Cooper and Ingrid Bisu
Directed by James Wan
Starring Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louise Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Mercedes Colon and Ingrid Bisu
Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
The movie opens in a hospital where a patient exhibits violent and almost supernatural powers. While we are unable to see the patient, its presence is felt through things like electrical disturbances and a dark voice emanating from a radio. The scene is very well directed and the entire sequence is executed perfectly to set up the powers of the villain as well as its motivations.
In the aftermath, the story switches to present day where Madison (Wallis) comes home early from work needing some time to heal. Madison is pregnant and the history of her previous pregnancies causes some strife between Madison and her husband. The husband doesn’t really have any presence besides being the catalyst for the rest of the story, showcasing Madison’s trauma and abuse at his hands and becoming the first victim. The husband is set up to be a throw away character and is never mentioned again as strange things begin to happen to Madison
A series of murders with a connection to the opening scene begin to take place and Madison finds herself having a front row seat to them for reasons that become readily apparent when her adopted sister Sydney (Hasson) begins to investigate her sister’s life and adoption. Their relationship is definitely one of the best part of the story as there is a bond between the two of them that is refreshing in horror movies. It’s definitely something you don’t see often and its presence adds depth to the film and its stakes.
Investigating the murders are Detectives Shaw (Young) and Moss (Briana White). They serve the story well as the believer and skeptic. They are cliché, but it works including the flirtation between Shaw and Sydney. Shaw does have a great moment in the film when he confronts the killer and chases it into a spooky underground area of the city. The cinematography is fantastic in this sequence and many others in this film. Wan knows how to move the camera to create and elevate mood even when the moments being elevated aren’t particularly new.
When all of the story elements come together, including an unnecessary trip to an abandoned hospital at night that was meant to be suspenseful but failed to pay off, the last 45 minutes of the film are an exciting and unexpected ride. As both Sydney and Madison learn the truth about her past and connection to the killer, the killer is cutting a swath of destruction that is beautifully shot and leads to an interesting and unexpected ending.
Malignant isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel in any way. It finds interesting and entertaining ways to explore common horror tropes, but what it really excels at are the unexpected moments with the characters and making its villain something new, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. I was impressed with this film all the way to its conclusion which left me with some intriguing questions about how a sequel could be made and what it might look like.