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Malignant - Movie Review


The intense stage lighting. The stylized production design. The black gloved-hand killer. The dramatic and often weirdly over-stylized music with electronic throbbing Goblin-like rhythm and pulses.  And, yes, the buckets of blood splashed everywhere.  If this were the 1970s, the best decade for the Italian Giallo horror genre, then Malignant, director James Wan’s latest thriller, might stand a chance at being influential or at least remembered by eager Horror Hounds ready for bold lighting choices and outrageous kill sequences done by a heinous villain. 

"Malignant should come with a disclaimer.  It is not what you are going to expect.  The acting is over-the-top and so are the murders.  Some will hate it.  Others will love it."

As it is, Wan’s latest feature is probably not the Wan thriller most audiences wanted. It is downright laughable at some parts with its inherent melodramatic madness BUT - and it is a BIG one - there is an audience out there that will gobble up this gruesome Mario Bava-like matinee of murders.

I am here to tell you that, love it or hate it, Malignant is absolutely CRACKERS . . . in all the right ways. 

Take for instance a key sequence in which the killer is finally revealed to us.  It takes place in an enlarged jail cell - keep in mind that most of the sets in this movie are enlarged and sparse - and the women surrounding the killer all look like extras in Dario Argento’s directorial debut The Bird With the Crystal Plumage or Jack Hill’s Coffy.  What goes down in the ultra-violent scene is both wild and expected as all the villain's cellmates meet their demise courtesy of our unhinged monster.

Malignant is studio polished and that plays to its strengths as 1973 comes alive again (although the film is set in the modern day), but none of that makes it any easier to swallow - especially if you’ve never sat through Bava’s A Bay of BloodMalignant is unhinged, wild, and off its rocker - especially when the killer turns into video game assassin mode and takes out an entire police station with stunning acrobatics. 

But, at its core, James Wan’s latest offering is a demented take on a murder mystery as one battered woman takes charge of the prison of hallucinations that she’s been victim to, thanks to a past which is slowly revealed to us.  Sound promising?  Just wait for the madness to take hold of the flick. Malignant

Malignant stars Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, and Michole Briana White, but really the star of this production is just how well Wan plays to the vibes of the Italian Giallo.  I wasn’t prepared for the film's hyper stylized realities and odes to a bygone era of films that just keep zipping by at an almost exhausting pace.  Due to the gimmick of the film - the well-developed hallucinations - time and space simply melt away, adding to the disorienting experience of a living mise-en-scène simply appearing and disappearing in front of our eyes.  Something the original Italian Giallo masters employed quite regularly to intensify the viewing experience.  

Malignant should come with a disclaimer.  It is not what you are going to expect.  The acting is over-the-top and so are the murders.  Some will hate it.  Others will love it.  Me?  I mean, it’s a bonkers ride through Italian Giallo tropes and characters and such and, sure, its plot barely holds together, but - strangely enough - it does satisfy the Suspiria itch.  I mean, one look at the poster should tell you all you need to know about its black gloves and knives leanings and that's why, ultimately, this crazy journey through one woman's SHARED and HAUNTED mind works.

Malignant is now playing in theaters and streaming (for one month) on HBO MAX.

3/5 stars


Film Details


MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language.
111 mins
: James Wan
James Wan
Annabelle Wallis; Maddie Hasson; George Young
: Horror
A new vision of terror.
Memorable Movie Quote: "He says his name is Gabriel. I think he's someone from my past."
Theatrical Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 10, 2021
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.




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