Malignant (2021) was released simultaneously in theaters and HBO Max on September 10, 2021. After hearing about the quality of this film, we had to check it out. Sadly, after watching it… we wish we left it to the imagination. We can’t review this film without giving away several plot points, so be warned, spoilers are forthcoming.
The film is beautifully shot. There are sequences throughout that just showcase the mind of James Wan and his creative genius. That being said, if stunning imagery was all we needed for a solid film, this would be Oscar worthy. Instead, it’s a slow burn film that seems to need the viewing audience to not ask questions so that the plot can move along.
Madison, played by Annabelle Wallis, is married to an abusive man. Derek, played by Jake Abel, appears to be a lazy husband who continues to abuse his wife physically, mentally and emotionally. We know this because he slams Madison’s head against a wall in a fit of rage. He also makes a nasty comment about how she continues to get pregnant and how he gets to watch all his babies die within her. While those scenes are evil, that’s all we get. The next thing we know, Derek meets his end by a shadowy figure that manipulates electricity. Then he’s just gone. The relationship seems to fall to the background with no information or development into why Madison was with him. She just was.
After all this, more people keep dying. Madison admits to having a “friend” named Gabriel who kept doing evil things. Turns out he isn’t imaginary, he’s a parasitic twin and they share a brain. The victims were all the doctors that removed his tiny arms and legs from Madison’s back. The problem… they share a brain. When Gabriel comes forward, Madison is a witness to it all.
Overall the film feels clunky, slow and lacking development of key characters (like Madison’s sister, Sydney). The scares feel less like true jump scares or thrilling scenes and more like something needed to get us from point A to point B. It’s as if they need to hand hold the audience instead of letting our minds run wild with all different options. Sometimes the most terrifying parts of thriller/horror films is just hearing music, seeing the camera move and our minds filling in the blanks.
In the end, we really wished we never started the film. Our imaginations of what it could be, were by far better than what we watched. If you like the idea of a parasitic twin, we suggest reading Stephen King’s The Dark Half. It’s better in our humble opinion. There was a film made about it, but maybe just read the book and let your mind play tricks on you.