Film Review: Malignant (2021)

Also known as: Silvercup (working title)
Release Date: September 1st, 2021 (France)
Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Akela Cooper, James Wan, Ingrid Bisu
Music by: Joseph Bishara
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michole Briana White, Mckenna Grace, Zoe Bell

Boom! Studios, Boom Entertainment, Atomic Monster, My Entertainment Inc., Starlight Media Inc. New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, 111 Minutes

Review:

“It’s time to cut out the cancer.” – Gabriel

*There be spoilers here!

I went into this movie blindly and I would say that this is the best way to approach Malignant. I hadn’t seen a trailer and frankly, I didn’t know of its existence until it hit HBO Max (at the same time it hit theaters) and then I saw that Joe Bob Briggs was really happy with it.

Having now watched it, I really wish I would’ve seen it in the theater and I still might on my second viewing of it.

I’ve got to state that this was just solid, top-to-bottom and I think it could very well be James Wan’s best movie that I’ve seen, apart from my original theatrical viewing of Saw. That film’s legacy was destroyed by its countless, underwhelming and eventually terrible sequels. I hope that Malignant doesn’t follow suit and become a watered down franchise like Saw or James Wan’s Conjuring universe.

It’s hard not talking about this movie without spoiling it. So if you know nothing about this, you should stop reading here. Seriously, it’s worth checking out and something I’d consider one of the ten best horror films of the last ten years or so. But you should just jump into it, knowing nothing, and just enjoy the ride.

So here come spoilers, galore. Turn back now or ruin the film for yourself; you have been warned.

The intro to the movie clues you in that there’s some sort of creature that’s very dangerous but you only get an obscured glance of it through opaque plastic curtains. It’s hard to tell what it is and whether it’s some sort of mutant or supernatural (possibly spiritual) force that’s taken physical manifestation. The only real clue you’re given is from dialogue spoken by the lead doctor referring to it as “cancer”.

As we meet Maddie, the main character, years later, we see her life, her shitty relationship and discover that she’s in her third pregnancy after losing the two previous babies. Her boyfriend is immediately abusive, physically, and that leads into the first encounter with the creature in current time.

Initially, this feels like either a haunted house or possession movie. However, as the plot rolls on and new clues and experiences are presented, it’s much more complicated and complex than that. We eventually learn that Maddie has a direct connection to this monster and then Matrix-type shit starts happening as reality bends and shifts and the plot becomes more layered, more complex yet incredibly more interesting without becoming a convoluted mess. At this point, you’re just filled with questions and intrigue.

Fast-forward and many developments later, you learn that Maddie was a Siamese twin and that her other half was an evil, murderous bastard named Gabriel. Gabriel was the “cancer” that was mostly cut out from Maddie, however, they couldn’t fully remove him without killing her, so the remaining part of him, that was attached to her brain, was shaved back and pushed into the back of her skull. You also find out that he fed off of her unborn babies in an effort to regain his power. Maddie getting her head slammed into the wall by her boyfriend was enough to finally wake Gabriel back up.

So with the big reveal, the film reminds me of Brian De Palma’s Sisters, as well as an obscure 1988 film, Brain Damage. Granted, I don’t think that Wan stole from these movies, as this story is still really original and stands on its own two feet.

Everything comes to a head when Maddie is in a holding cell, the prime suspect in several murders, and Gabriel finally regains full control and brutalizes the shit out of the other inmates, who were bullying and brutalizing Maddie. This scene is just cool as fuck and Maddie/Gabriel takes action like a character from The Matrix. The really neat thing, anatomy-wise, is that Gabriel’s face is attached to the back of Maddie’s head, so her body does its martial arts badassery physically backwards. It’s a bizarre but incredibly cool sight.

In the end, Maddie gains full control back from Gabriel and suppresses him seemingly into nonexistence, again. However, the film ends kind of abruptly after this and it’s unclear what will happen to her, as the only cop that learned the truth is presumably dead. And with that, it’s obvious that there will be a sequel.

They should learn from Saw and The Conjuring, that sequels will dilute the effect of the original movie. However, everything Wan touches seemingly turns into gold and I assume that this will also be milked to death. Still, I liked this enough that I would see a sequel and just hope for the best.

What really made this movie work so damn well was the incredibly convincing performance by its star, Annabelle Wallis, who I loved and hope to see more from in the future.

I also liked a lot of sequences in this, especially the stuff in the Seattle Underground. It’s a really cool location to utilize for horror and it’s been weirdly underutilized for decades. This movie makes the most out of that setting and it also gave us some really good action when Gabriel was on the run from the main cop in the story.

In recent years, the horror genre has been fairly shit. Malignant was one of the very few films that grabbed my attention, kept me glued to the screen and exceeded any expectations I could’ve had for it. Additionally, it’s finely directed, wonderfully acted and a cool, unique story that is a legitimate mindfuck of the highest caliber.

Rating: 9/10