‘Malignant” is written and directed by James Wan (writer/director of “The Conjuring 1 & 2,” “Saw 1 & 2,” and “Aquaman”) and stars Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”) as Madison, a woman who is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.
When the first trailer for this movie was released back in July, I was both excited and worried at the same time about how it would turn out. I was excited because I’m a huge James Wan fan and with this being his first horror movie in five years since The Conjuring 2 (my favorite of his films), I was pumped to see what else he had in store. However, after seeing the trailer, I was scared because every time I watched it, I felt like it gave the entire movie away. It’s never a good sign when studios make trailers and give basically the entire plot to the audience before they even watch the movie.
Thankfully I could not have been more wrong as everything shown in the trailer is basically just the first act of the movie and there’s so much more in store for audiences to sink their teeth into. That’s why my plot synopsis of the film is so vague in this review because I don’t want to give anything away. James Wan kept me on my toes the entire runtime and it’s basically impossible to predict what’s going to happen next or even what’s happening in that very moment. There are so many twists and turns and surprises all throughout the film, especially in the final act.
This movie is completely bonkers and absolutely insane. The entire time I felt like there was something off about it, but it was really just the way James Wan decided to make this movie. The movie can only be described in one word: camp (for those that don’t know, the definition of camp is “deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style, typically for humorous effect”). It’s a huge throwback to camp horror movies from the 1970s and it’s so amazing that Warner Bros. actually let James Wan direct something like this in 2021 because it’s definitely not going to be for everyone, but man was it for me.
James Wan proves once again why he is a horror auteur. He has already created three of the most iconic modern horror franchises in Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious and, if he and most importantly myself, are lucky, he might have his hands on a fourth. James Wan crafts such a unique atmosphere with this film that lingers with you all the way through the end. There’s this uneasy feeling that lingers with you all the way through that leads to one of the best third acts in horror movie in recent memory.
The visuals really sell this movie and there is just so many great shots all around. One of my favorites is a one take shot of Madison running through her home from the perspective of her ceiling. Seeing her go from room-to-room from the angle was so interesting. Also the way James Wan showcases Madison’s visions by basically making the wall melt around her (as seen in the trailer) was very cool to see. Wan also mixes visual and practical effects so well in this movie (I’m not going to say more because that would be a spoiler).
Wan has not only directed horror movies over the years, but he has also directed two action films in “Aquaman” and “Furious 7” and you can tell that you took what he learned from those films and elevated them to this movie. There are two major action scenes in this movie: a chase and a full on fight battle. Both are very well made and thrilling, but the latter was extremely impressive. It reminded me a lot of some of the best fight scenes in modern action movies and really makes me want to see Wan direct a John Wick movie or something similar to that.
Like I said, this movie is pure camp and that goes along with the acting as well, for better and for worse. The acting from pretty much everyone is pretty poor in the first act, but either it gets better as the film goes on or I just got used to it and accepted it for what it is. Annabelle Wallis is a great lead despite that and sells everything her character is put through very well. Michole Briana White, who plays one of the two detectives, is very good and brings a lot to the film. I should also give a shoutout to McKenna Grace who plays Madison’s younger self and completely disappears in the role proving once again that she is the best younger actor ever. Period.
“Malignant” will absolutely not be for everyone, but if you can accept its campiness for what it is and go along for the ride, I promise you that just like me, you will have a blast and a ton of fun and thrills. “Malignant” is currently playing in theaters and on HBO Max. Don’t miss this especially if you’re a horror fan.
Jordan Wooodson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org