‘…worth the trek for tolerant horror devotees, but something of a howl of frustration for anyone hoping for a credible story…’

Yikes! One of the unexpected fallers in 2021’s race for the drastically reduced box-office prizes on offer was James Wan’s return to the horror territories that he’d previously made his own. After the promising Dead Silence, the Insidious and Conjuring movies made Wan a brand, even if both franchises fizzled out in terms of appeal. His latest, Malignant, has an unfortunate but ultimately opportune title, and even though both film (and poster) lift liberally from the usual influential sources (Mario Bava, Dario Argento), a third act twist into super-hero action turns out to be a twist too far.

Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) is a woman with problems; she’s pregnant, and stuck in a domestic abuse relationship with a violent man who slams her against the wall during an avoidable argument, causing her to lose her baby. The next day, Madison’s partner is found dead, and the cops suspect her, so together with her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson), Madison starts seeking the real killer, who is now on a killing spree in Seattle. Madison seems to be able to view every killing through some kind of remote vision phenomena, and her search leads her not only to the sinister Simion hospital, but to her own adoption, uncovering a particularly nasty family secret…

OK, Spoiler Alert, it’s M Night Shyamalan time, and everyone who doesn’t want to know the secret contained in Malignant should stand outside the room while the grown-ups discuss the ending. Madison discovers that…she is the real killer, or rather, inside her body are the vestiges of a parasitic twin that emerges and murders police-stations full of dozens of cops and prisoners at a time like John Wick on steroids. Yup, it’s 1982’s Basket Case, or 1987’s The Kindred all over again, but with better special effects; Malignant is a very fancy film, beautifully produced as you’d expect from Wan, and there’s a few foreboding moments in the build up that update giallo topes with some imagination.

Worth the trek for tolerant horror devotees, then, but something of a howl of frustration for anyone hoping for a credible story Malignant is likely to pick up the ‘cult classic booby prize rather than the box office champion expected. Wan has made some silly films before, but the scrupulously observed B movie trappings previously kept things grounded. Malignant goes way over the top with the comic-book action in a way that worked for Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade, but doesn’t pan out the same way here. There are unlikely to be sequels, or a cinematic universe following on from the broken-backed narrative of Malignant, although as failures go, it’s certainly compelling in patches until the groaner of a punchline emerges like an evil parasitic twin from the back of your melon.


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  1. Saw this at the cinema a while back and I think it makes a difference on the big screen, far more atmospheric and more likely to jump at the jumpy bits. Big fan of Conjuring etc, this was more off-the-wall but I thought the internal movie logic worked.

    • It’s a fun film, but likely to be a cult item rather than a blockbuster. Parasitic twins are like genetically modified super soldiers for me, just worn smooth by over exposure as an idea. Can’t say I didn’t have a laugh, and the B movie police work is always amusing in Wan’s films.

  2. I really enjoyed this film! Yeah, its a bit more fun that horror, but you can tell it comes from a good place. James Wan has followed all the rules previously, but this film is something he can really pay homage to some of the more bizarre films from the 80’s. My favourite part of this film, is asking people to watch it, then getting a glazed look later, as they mention they lost the plot after a while haha I don’t think any other director could have got funding for this film? So, hoorah to James Wan, for keeping it real; fun 🙂

    • Keeping it mad AF! I really like Wan, and there’s some really slick moments in this. I was annoyed that he reached back to 80’s classics, but I can see why others will dig that. It’s not the kind of project that could have been a first film; it’s well smartly made, and at least visualises a truly insane conceit. I wouldn’t want to have money invested in it, but at the same time, it’s a cut above most horror due to Wan’s flamboyant style.

  3. I think the Outer Limits did an episode pretty much like this. except they turned it into rainbows and unicorns and everyone lived happily ever after. (and no superhero stuff)

    • I think it’s a very familiar story, it just never looked as crazy as this! Rainbows and unicorns not included…

          • I don’t think so. It was like this this morning.
            It shows your name “” but it isn’t clickable and it doesn’t show your pix.
            Maybe it’s always done that from your phone though?

            • it may be a phone thing. At least most of the big name value commenters like yourself seem to have found a workaround while this weird error message gets sorted, sorry for taxing your patience…

  4. Was sort of looking forward to this so didn’t read after the spoiler alert. Sounds like you didn’t like the ending though, so wouldn’t a spoiler of an ending that spoiled the movie not be a spoiler but something that actually makes it better?

    • Fair enough, that’s what spoilers are for; this has all the trappings of a classic, some cool visuals, but the ending is one that everyone has seen several times over, albeit without the super-hero stuff. Brightburn and so on also seek to merge horror and super-hero action to divisive effect…actually, you’re right, this might be better to watch if you know where it’s headed, and dodn’t experience that sickening lurch of realising that the film you’re watching is taking an abrupt turn in the wrong direction…

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