Saturday, September 11, 2021

Malignant

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

1993. A terrified doctor at Simion Research Hospital fears for the safety of her staff, several of whom are murdered in a gruesome fashion by one of their special patients who can manipulate electricity. When the assailant is finally subdued, she announces that it’s time to get rid of the cancer. Almost three decades later, a pregnant Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis) comes home to her abusive husband who has a knack for knocking her head against the wall. Later that night, the couple is attacked by a shadow, leaving him dead and her with a third miscarriage. To the rescue is her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) who sympathizes with her sister’s circumstances but is shaken by the revelation that they are not biological siblings. Soon Madison starts seeing visions of murders so vivid she feels as though she was witnessing them firsthand at the crime scene. This leads to an unlikely team-up with Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) who suddenly has a serial killer to catch.

This was supposed to be getting three instead of four clovers because of that twist ending that makes you go dafuq-did-I-just-watch? But come on, guys. James Wan. The guy has reinvigorated the genre since he helmed The Conjuring, and to be fair, Malignant starts off with a lot of promise and the familiar jump scares that made us love the guy. Add the air of mystery and intrigue and you are sure to get hooked just to find out what this is all about. And then the third act slaps you in the face, so hard you might as well grow a parasitic twin at the back of your head who wants to go on a killing spree.

Part of what makes the first two acts engrossing is the fact that you don’t know what you are dealing with. The opening sequence hints that there is a creature of some sort that will definitely play the antagonist role. But what is the nature of this monster? Extra-terrestrial? Supernatural? Freaky government experiment gone bad? Schizophrenic psycho killer? It just keeps you guessing, and the specific horror plot devices used make sure to drop ambiguous clues all over the place until the twist is finally revealed.

The twist is not that satisfying and leaves more questions than answers. The psychic and paranormal angles are left unexplained. So what, does the antagonist have superpowers? The writers can get away with the telepathic link quite easily thanks to the same twist, but it cannot fully shed some light on all the paranormal stuff going on as well as that curious subplot about being able to control electricity. And that’s how it feels watching Malignant, ladies and gentlemen. 70 minutes of a thrilling roller coaster ride and another 35 of vomiting and trying to figure out what just hit you, in a not so very good kind of way.

For what it’s worth, the cast still deserves some kudos for committing to their characters. Wallis as the troubled Madison trying to piece together the puzzle of her past is convincing and you just love it when she lets out that signature shriek of horror and disbelief of hers. Hasson and Young provide strong support, the latter particularly shining in the action and chase scenes. Final verdict? Stream it on HBO Max. Even though we love James Wan, Malignant is a good thriller but not the kind you would risk getting COVID for to see in theaters.

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