Writer and Director James Wan hardly needs an introduction these days. He’s known for blockbuster horror franchises like Saw, Insidious, and the most profitable horror franchise of all time, The Conjuring movies. He’s made mainstream action hits as well, with Aquaman under his belt, and with his unprecedented financial success comes more financial freedom. This leads us to his newest original horror concept, Malignant.
The film follows Madison as she begins to have visions of mysterious and violent murders that eventually are learned to be more than just visions. As Madison becomes implicated in these crimes, her sister Sydney begins to help Madison unravel the secret at the heart of these strange occurrences.
The synopsis I provided is, of course, incredibly vague and that isn’t an accident. Wan has crafted a film whose strength lies in shock and awe. It is rare that a film comes along that is so well made and so unique in its story. This of course only exists as a result of Wan making so much money for Warner Brothers, effectively giving him artistic license and financial freedom to make whatever weird idea he wanted.
This isn’t to say the film is perfect; tonally, the film suffers from trying to be so many different movies. It starts as a sort of sci-fi thriller, then morphs into a horror crime thriller, and then again shifts into a quasi-action movie. Its especially fun for trying so much and leans into its silliness often, but it is performed to various degrees of quality.
However, the biggest flaw in Wan’s film is the performance from the lead actress, Annabelle Wallis. I would often find her line readings would be incredibly distracting from the movie because of how badly they stuck out from the rest of the cast. Certainly blame for this should be spread to the script and direction, but it’s just a shame one performance holds this film back.
Thankfully, Malignant is still an enjoyable watch thanks to its high energy level and its “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” attitude towards filmmaking. It is available to stream for free on HBO Max and is currently in theaters. – 3.5/5 stars