James Wan’s Malignant is a film that defies genre categorisation. It’s more tonally consistent with Dead Silence than Insidious or The Conjuring, and those expecting to see another blockbuster horror in a similar vein as the latter are likely to leave disappointed.
After a bloody prologue, complete with an over-the-top title sequence to kicks things off, viewers are introduced to Madison (Annabelle Wallis). She, alongside her abusive boyfriend (Jake Abel), are expecting the arrival of a newborn daughter after a series of miscarriages. But when a shadowy figure breaks into their home, killing the boyfriend and rendering his pregnant girlfriend unconscious, Madison awakes in a hospital to discover that she’s lost the baby and become the prime suspect in the ensuing murder enquiry, fronted by detectives played by George Young and Michole Briana White.
From here Wan unleashes his imagination and lets Malignant run wild. To divulge any of the plot details beyond this point would dampen the experience, but what follows ranges from a throwback to the campy horrors of the late-90s and early-2000s, a pulpy slasher and a thrilling investigation. The tonal dissonance created from these elements shouldn’t work, but the director’s commitment to his vision, coupled with his exuberant artistic flair, enables his latest project to function as a cohesive whole.
Viewers should be warned, however, that Malignant is intentionally hammy. From the corny dialogue, the over-indulgent soundtrack (including a distorted version of The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind), and the overall grungy presentation, Wan plays into the lowbrow aesthetics perfectly. It’s tremendously silly at times (especially some special effects towards the latter half), but that’s just part of the charm of what makes this flick so much fun.
The scares, too, share the kitsch tone. Though at times somewhat overindulgent, they nevertheless reiterate the director’s knack for catching viewers off-guard, a sequence involving a washing machine being a notable standout. Even if the bizarre tone doesn’t work for some viewers, it’s worth sticking with this one until the bitter end, if only to experience the visceral insanity of the blood-spattered climax.
Malignant is a strange creature that is as much a genius genre piece as it is a schlock-fest. There’s no question that Wan’s latest film will polarise audiences, but it’s an encounter that horror fans shouldn’t pass up on if given the chance.
Malignant is released nationwide on 10th September 2021.
Watch the trailer for Malignant here: