An ominous asylum looms over a seaside cliff. Something unseen, behind curtains, must be contained. Something…sinister needs to be dealt with. It’s time to…Cut the cancer…
Malignant is a difficult movie to review. As someone who watches their fair share of movies, I try not to let the cat out of the bag. I never want to spoil a film’s plot or some of its surprises, regardless of when it was released (e.g., The Sixth Sense). With Malignant, I want to throw ALL of that out the window and tell you everything I didn’t like about it! I want to warn you! Tell you to stay away!…but on the flipside of the same coin, I want those of you who haven’t seen it, to do so and validate my thoughts on it.
I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, I’ve spoken to quite a few people whose opinions I hold in some lofty standing and they did NOT care for it. The Mrs. being one of them. But, oddly enough, there are some that, dare I say…enjoyed Malignant! Hey, to each their own I guess but it does have me scratching my head.
Not all of it is terrible. That’s not to say I’ll give it a positive review on my Letterboxd account but I WILL say, Malignant fooled me from the start. We’re thrown into chaos right from the word, go. Something supernatural or alien is being held in this facility but we can’t see what. The lead doctor (Jacqueline McKenzie) wants to “cut out the cancer”. Sparks fly from the light fixtures, guttural screams are echoing throughout the operating room and a unearthly voice is coming through…a radio? What kind of cancer does THAT?! Well, forget that for now because we are then introduced to our lead, Madison (Annabelle Wallis). And what occurs in this part after the opening credits, is pretty stylized. We are introduced to a shadowy, long-haired figure that terrorizes Madison’s husband (Jake Abel) and her. That’s as much as I’ll touch on. James Wan, has a certain creative vision. I’ll give him that but where he excels in vision, he lacks in story. Shortly after the first 20 minutes, Malignant flies off the rails.
Not only is the premise of Malignant bonkers but the acting is made-for-tv quality. It’s on the level of The SyFy Channel. Speaking of lower quality, the music sounds like Royalty Free clips and misplaced throughout. This is an actual studio film from “horror maestro” James Wan! The man who brought us Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring and Aquaman! To be honest, the only one I thought was great was the first Conjuring. All the rest, I could take or leave. Because of that, some will accuse me of bias going in to Malignant and I can assure you, there is none. There isn’t.
Like most modern filmmakers (not just in horror), when they want to pay homage to the films that inspired them, they go about it all wrong. They ditch the practical effects for CGI. The film’s shoestring budget is now inflated. The unintentional goofiness becomes intentional, bordering on parody. I’ll even go as far as to say, the filmmakers who lampoon the source material, there’s an amount of respect for it that comes through.
Had I not gone into this cold, I may’ve been more hesitant on pressing play. I found no such warnings, though. Upon its release, it was the talk of the town. As a reviewer I had to see what all the buzz was about. Plus, it was technically “free” on HBOMax. What did I have to lose? Heh. I’m still trying to answer that question. Malignant is certainly an apt title for this movie. By definition alone, “Mal” means bad and “ignant” or “ignorant” means lacking knowledge or awareness. So, to break it down it means “bad lack of awareness” or bad judgement…I mean, the writing was on the wall, people!