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Review: Malignant (2021)

Malignant (2021)

Directed by: James Wan

Premise: A woman (Annabelle Wallis) has visions of brutal murders. As people start showing up dead, she is implicated in the crimes.

What Works: Malignant is a James Wan production and if nothing else the film has Wan’s trademark visual style and audacity. The set pieces are executed creatively and the film possesses a kinetic energy that keeps the film plowing through its implausibilities and logical inconsistencies. It also culminates in a wild reveal that is worthy of Larry Cohen.

What Doesn’t: Malignant’s bizarre reveal is the best thing the movie has going for it. That’s a problem for the picture because the rest of it isn’t very compelling. When twist endings work, as in The Sixth Sense or even Sleepaway Camp, they do so because the film works up to its reveal in a way that changes our understanding of what we’ve seen and leads the viewer to rewatch the picture to see how it all pieces together. That’s not the case in Malignant. The story does lay the groundwork for its reveal but there’s little value or reward in a rewatch. The twist comes across as a Hail Mary pass to punch up a story that is otherwise pedestrian and occasionally incoherent. The characters are not interesting and several of them are interchangeable. There’s little sense of tension or escalation. Scenes don’t cohere into a narrative whole; Malignant often feels like a jumble of images whose order does not matter. The climax of the film doesn’t really resolve anything; the protagonist confronts the villain but the solution to the conflict doesn’t make any internal sense given what we’ve seen throughout the film.

DVD extras: Featurette.

Bottom Line: Malignant gained a lot of notoriety because of its outrageous twist but there’s nothing to the movie beyond its gimmick. It’s not a good story or even a particularly scary horror film.

Episode: #874 (October 24, 2021)