Malignant (dir. James Wan, 2021) – Experiencing visions of murders in her sleep, Madison’s fear grows when she discovers that her waking dreams are in fact reality.
An unseen patient unleashes a brutal attack on the hospital employees, who are armed with weapons that clearly aren’t enough. We do not see who or what he is, only the gruesome aftermath that hints at something unimaginably monstrous.
The macabre cold open of Malignant calls to mind old horror films in the vein of It’s Alive. Yet it is nothing quite as straightforward as a b-movie about an indiscriminate monster born to kill. There is something much more to this than meets the eye, and to draw any further comparisons may only spoil the mad ploy James Wan plans to unravel.
What follows is a seemingly unrelated story, set 27 years later. We are introduced to Madison (Annabelle Wallis), who suffers a harrowing home incident that leaves her severely traumatised. Things worsen for her when she starts to experience horrifying visions of grisly killings that turn out to be happening in the real world.
Could her dreams be something to do with her home? Those expecting yet another haunted house lore from The Conjuring and Insidious director will be disappointed. This isn’t like anything James Wan has ever done, though influences of giallo are clearly present.
Like his debut masterwork Saw, there is more shock in how the mystery unfolds, than fear conjured by cleverly constructed jump scares. The good kind of shock, that is. Not forgetting tons of fun for old-school horror fans.
Blessed is James Wan with the studio’s trust and a budget larger than most, thanks to his big-budget successes. He, along with his co-creator/wife Ingrid Bisu and screenwriter Akela Cooper, get to realise their wild idea with no holds barred. When his leading woman Madison finds herself trapped in her vision, her dreams meld into reality in compelling-designed shots.
Wallis is great as Madison. One can feel her terror and confusion of her sleep paralysis as she plays helpless witness to each death. All this is accompanied by an aptly tense soundtrack, including Celldweller’s electronic instrumental that leaves one’s heart racing, and an interesting take on Where is my Mind that will forever be tied to this film.
Saying anything more may just sully the experience of a fresh viewing. Without committing the heinous cinema sin of spoilers, allow me to simply sum up my thoughts here: What an absolute pleasure for a horror fan to experience something so wholly original and bold.
Avoid all trailers, reviews, and thoughts about Malignant. Instead, experience (and embrace!) the rare originality of a memorable horror tale, birthed by an evident love of the genre.
Malignant is in theatres.