Malignant is a Terrible Horror Movie, but a Passable Comedy


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Malignant is an attempt at a horror film from director James Wan, most famous for directing the original Saw and more recently the Aquaman films. The movie has some credible body horror and some interesting and, at times, disturbing visuals but the story quickly devolves into what can only be described as an unintentional dark comedy of the wacky rather than the ironic vein.

The film follows Madison Lake, played by Annabelle Wallis of Annabelle fame, a pregnant young woman with a history of miscarriages, trapped in an abusive relationship at the start of the film. Shortly afterward, her abuser slams her into a wall, causing her to lose the pregnancy. Madison soon begins having strange dreams in which she witnesses various murders, and these visions are revealed to play out in reality. I will not lie, for much of the early film, I was assuming that this was going to be some type of multiple personality disorder plot and that it was Madison who was responsible for all of it. Without spoiling too much, I was both right and wrong at the same time.

There are a number of fundamental problems with this film. The first and most important is that the acting is quite terrible and the characters are cliché. In order for a horror movie to be frightening, we have to identify with the characters and want them to survive, otherwise it easily devolves into dark humor. This is one of the most common errors in modern horror films: the main characters are written to be unlikable (which does not appear to be the case here except for the first victim) or the acting and writing is unable to bring the characters to life so watching them die has all the emotional resonance of seeing a dog tear apart a magazine cover, as is the case here. Beyond that, once the killer is properly revealed, the film degrades into jump scares and gory action that is wrapped up quite anticlimactically. On the plus side, the second you stop trying to identify with the characters or engage with the story and just start enjoying the ridiculousness of it all. It is even plausible that this kind of dark comedy might be what Wan was aiming for, given the out-of-sync soundtrack and the strange extras that occasionally appear.

All in all, 2 out of 5.

Stream it, just don’t spend any extra money on it.