Written by: Akela Cooper
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Jacqueline McKenzie
Directors succeeding in the studio system typically can make a film they find passion in creating without any need for it making money simply because the filmmaker has made the studio so much money through other projects. Often called the “one for me,” which Malignant represents for James Wan for the billion-dollar success of Aquaman. Most likely under no other circumstance would this feature ever have been released, because of how hilariously odd it proves to be, which makes me glad it exists.
Struggling to conceive a child with her husband, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) gets her head banged against a wall, and ever since then, she witnesses these visions where she sees a figure named Gabriel kill people. Trying to figure out their connection, Madison looks back into her past to see what she can learn and what can be done.
The context of this title in the medical field is typically associated with the danger level of a specific entity impacting the human body. With benign being one end and malignant on the dangerous one. This feature takes this title and utilizes it in a way I never thought a large studio would ever have the gall to do, but the way it all comes together elicits an enormous amount of joy. While this film has several tenets of what makes it a decent feature, the way it evolves and then reveals exactly what the malignant substance is, it shoots into another stratosphere in demonstrating James Wan had far too much fun putting this all together.
As the narrative progresses, there are overly silly moments occurring where you start to believe something odd must be going on, but the instance in which you realize James Wan is in on the joke, everything begins to click. Once the feature gets into the third act, it reaches a level of insanity where you almost have to stand up and clap the absurdity of it all and how wonderfully it all gets set up. Everything in the feature comes with a beautiful level of intentionality from the script put together by Akela Cooper. The beginning of the feature sets it up where you can guess where it goes and when the reveal arrives, it becomes surprising not so much in what occurs but in the glorious way in which it gets captured.
In addition, small moments continue to let you in on the fact of this film not taking itself overly seriously therefore neither should the audience. I mean, just watch the scene where Madison delivers some major news to her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson). The music cue within the scene alone should really spell it all out, which comes before Sydney drives to a hospital of Madison’s past and parks right on the edge of a cliff. Who does that? Well, someone who exists within this overtly hilarious feature.
When the plot synopsis states Madison witnesses murders, it comes from a place where she lives her life, and then everything around her changes setting, and without moving, she can see what the murderer, Gabriel does to his victims. All she can do is watch, but the big mystery comes in their connection and not piecing together why Gabriel will not actually murder her as well. A connection certainly exists because once she stops witnessing the murder, she can get back up after seeing some horrifying actions. Each of these sequences gets captured in a terrifying manner, which also comes in the design of Gabriel.
Long flowing black hair with a sharp weapon of choice, the visions Madison experiences do not show his face, but everything about this figure seeks to cause discomfort. Nearly contorting its figure through the simple act of walking, once you see him running, you’ll get nightmares as to the visuals involved. Spine-tingling, all dressed in black, and with an intense amount of strength, trying to catch this monster comes with such a high degree of difficulty, and the killing streak he’s on seemingly has some sort of reason, which Madison and her sister Sydney must figure out before yet another victim meets their end at the hands of this monstrous figure.
Everything in this film works because of the tone set by James Wan but also the performance by Annabelle Wallis, who needs to sell the seriousness of this story on a character level but also the hilarity of it on a narrative level. All of her line delivery works exquisitely to navigate on this dual trajectory and she becomes the perfect person to make this story work as well as it can. When it gets to the end, and she has her big impactful scene, the delivery there simply came together causing a chef’s kiss at just how well it works with the tone this film takes on.
Such an unexpectedly fun time at the movies, Malignant takes the definition of this word to another stratosphere and blows away any expectations you could possibly have. You could possibly predict where the story will go but never in the way it comes together and the tone it takes on. Such a refreshing take on what, on paper, proves to be a terrifying story.