Dog’s Movie House: “Malignant” interesting but flawed James Wan horror film!
“Malignant” features Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell, a young pregnant woman who unfortunately has an abusive husband who doesn’t hesitate to slam her around despite the fact that she’s about to give birth. When an unknown (and very ghostly assailant) violently does her husband in and attacks Madison as well (causing her to lose the child in the process), Madison finds herself haunted by a spectral creature from her past, one that is hell bent on taking everything from her in a twisted attempt at revenge. Much carnage follows.
Of course there’s a lot more too it than that and Wan along with scritper Akela Cooper through the twists and turns at us pretty quickly. There’s a lot to take in and sometimes it gets in the way of the film’s pacing, the need to find out what’s going on contradicting Wan’s attempts at building suspense. It’s a rare misstep for Wan who usually exercises a great deal of control over every aspect of his film. The result is an uneven first half that keeps the viewer at a distance and somewhat limits the effectiveness of the overall level of horror in the film.
Fortunately, after a few fairly cool revelations that reveal the truth about Madison and her relationship with her scary boogeyman (named Gabriel), the film kicks into high gear for the final half hour or so. The tone of the film changes from outright horror into more of a revenge action thriller and the results are mostly positive. Wan, as in his time with the Fast and the Furious franchise, stages the action scenes with aplomb, including a fight in the police station that would make John Wick proud. It’s just not that scary.
The performances are not bad, but there’s something a little off about some of the characters. George Young, in particular, playing the cop in charge of the investigation, seems to be overly friendly in light of the evidence. In playing a sympathetic character, Young sometimes veers into the realm of unbelievability as a homicide detective. Wallis is pretty convincing as Madison, and she has to do some heavy lifting in the films latter stages, both emotionally and physically. The script lets her down partially in places when it comes to the dialogue, but her performance and the story beats themselves overcome most of the story’s deficiencies. It also helps that Gabriel is an unusual and fairly intense villain with an interesting set of abilities that set him apart from other cinematic beasties.
Overall, “Malignant” is not the best of Wan’s horror work, but still manages to be entertaining as a film even if it’s not all that scary. It’s worth watching if only to see Wan’s masterful camerawork in action. It’s playing on both HBO Max and in theaters. See it on the big screen if you want the maximum “jump-scare” factor. 3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!