Among the most outlandish mainstream horror films of recent memory, Malignant marks James Wan’s return to B movies (unless you count Aquaman).
A kind of giallo Basket Case, this wacky slasher opens with a comedy sequence introducing a creature called Gabriel who broadcasts his malicious thoughts via radio a bit like Julia Hartley-Brewer. Not only does this require every character to always be standing near a radio, it causes a bizarre gear shift when the following scenes concern miscarriage and domestic violence.
Here we meet a pregnant woman (Annabelle Wallis) who gets smashed into a wall by her husband (Jake Abel), then witnesses a series of brutal murders from the comfort of her living room. That’s not to say she watches a lot of Netflix (why would she need to when her radio still works?), rather she is mentally transported to the crime scenes while doing everyday things like brushing her teeth and bleeding from the head.
This causes the common problem of making the protagonist a passenger in her own story, not helped by a one-note performance from Wallis. The best that can be said for the acting in general is that the director is clearly confused about the tone and the script is a concussed trip to the cheese market, with lines including, “It’s time to cut out the cancer!” and “In the end it was right in front of me all along.”
Wan sees no use in suspense and immediately reveals Gabriel, whose appearance suggests his problems started when he was kicked out of Slipknot. How can a man who has created three successful horror franchises only be capable of imagining one type of monster? Malignant also features hypnosis, a scene set in a women’s prison cell and ludicrous yet predictable twists that don’t so much explain the preceding nonsense as confirm that it was never trying to make any sense.
These ridiculous revelations throw the film’s geography out the window and result in people walking backwards for entire scenes, making for a hilarious climax to one of the stupidest movies ever misconceived. If Wan is hoping to rekindle the cancer slasher genre in which he made his name, he needs a far better sense of tumour.