“Malignant” is a hollow attempt to drum up scares from James Wan


Warner Brothers

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is left in utter horror by a vision in “Malignant.” The film is now in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

Noah Sparkman, Editor-in-Chief

After a long series of delays, James Wan’s newest directorial effort, “Malignant,” has finally arrived. However, those expecting to be frightened will walk away disappointed, as the only thing malignant about the film is how utterly uninteresting it is.
The film stars Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell, a woman who finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she starts seeing visions of gory murders. It is now in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.
Following a bit of an absence from the horror genre as he focused on his “Aquaman” film, many, including myself, were excited to see what Wan might do with an original horror property.
To his credit, his directorial hand is as steady as ever. He marches the audience through a house of horrors at his leisure, leading to occasionally stunning results. One sequence in a motel room is particularly intriguing, as Wan plays with the use of lighting in the scene.
He is aided to good effect by an ensemble who is up to the task required of them. Wallis is especially impressive, proving that she can pivot between many emotions quickly, even within a single scene at times.
What ultimately lets “Malignant” down is the writing.
It seems as though the strategy taken while writing the film was to combine all of the most generic and formulaic horror movie tropes and see what happens. Unsurprisingly, the result is uninspired and exhausting.
Perhaps most responsible for the quality of script is the fact that the film has four credited writers. After seeing the film, it would be a surprise if they had kept in contact with each other past the rough draft.
Many scenes seem to have no connection to each other, making the rotating wheelhouse of slasher kills that occupy the film’s middle third seem meaningless.
The disjointed nature of the film simply makes it boring. It barely ever gains any momentum, and when it does, it loses it immediately.
In addition, the unravelling of the film’s central mystery seems to have no distinct pattern to it. Threads abandoned at the beginning of the film reappear in the third act, making viewers question why they should care.
Infinitely more frustrating is that the mysterious happenings of the film are mostly obvious from the get-go, and it becomes infuriating to watch the characters lumber toward a conclusion that the watcher came to 20 minutes in.
The insipid meandering of the first two acts is almost redeemed by a late-game twist that is so absurd that it almost injects life into the film, but after an enthralling action sequence, the film falls flat on its face once more.
Ultimately, it is shocking to me that this film is being marketed as James Wan’s next “vision,” given that I cannot imagine it being the vision of only one person. It is simply a hodgepodge of the most overdone slasher clichés of the current era and a massive step down from the normal quality of Wan’s normal work.
No amount of polished directing and solid performances can distract from how empty the film feels at its core, and it makes “Malignant” a chore to watch.
If you’re looking to watch a “greatest hits” compilation of all of the bad horror movies that have been released in recent times, look no further than “Malignant.” However, if you want something that gets you on the edge of your seat, it’s best to look elsewhere.