Malignant (2021) Review

Staff Writer: David McCallister

Over a year ago, movie theaters started to reopen after being dormant for months. There were struggles to get the public back into going to the theater, but all of that has changed now. Theaters today have seen more revenue and returns thanks to the superhero and horror genre.

The most recent horror film to open in theaters is Malignant. The film is directed by James Wan, who has directed Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring series. His expertise in horror has propelled him into modern horror fame, as his hands in the genre have amounted to critical acclaim and box office success. 

His newest film shies away from the jump scare routine that viewers have been accustomed to, and follows a more surreal, vintage Italian-horror route. The film follows a woman, Madison, who after suffering a traumatic incident, sees visions of people being murdered in real-time. 

Keeping the plot simple for Malignant allows the film to shine through the bizarre moments that play out in the two-hour runtime. Going into the film with minimal spoilers is the best way to experience what transpires. Wan dares to take risks with his story, and it pays off once the film is finished.

An aspect of Malignant that will take people out of the film is how it is paced. Since the film does not rely on jump scares, but more unsettling moments of fear and tension, there is a different pace to the film than even that of The Conjuring. Many viewers may feel cheated out of a scary film, but overall, the tension and story acclimate to this change of pace.

Malignant takes inspiration from many classic Italian “Giallo” horror films such as Suspiria and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Through the wonderful camera work, to homages to scenes in other horror films, anyone who has seen Italian horror can feel the inspiration that the director put into the film.

That Italian style means that the writing fails to deliver in most scenes. When there are pivotal dramatic moments, the characters’ emotions and decisions can feel comedic and cartoonish. It again, is another turn off to people not knowing what they are going to watch beforehand.

The great thing about new films today is that many are available on streaming the day of, or shortly after their theatrical run is over. Malignant is already available on HBO Max for a month, and I would suggest watching it before its month window of being on the service comes to an end.

From A Quiet Place Part 2 to Don’t Breathe 2, sequel horror films have dominated the 2021 movie slate. With Malignant being a new original film, it is a breath of fresh air to see a new story with new characters. 

This film will be divisive for many. The writing and pacing can cause boredom and frustration. But if the viewer is able to watch up to the very end, the third act provides a satisfying and insane horror film that is worth watching as soon as possible.

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