The horror-thriller genre has seen its saturation through pop culture and entertainment since its break into the public eye. The seeking of spooks, scares, and unshakable chills have always been in demand as development and advances in the genre have been made. There’s a peculiar, intoxicating feeling of suspense that leaves horror junkies wanting more to fix their craving. The domination of streaming has helped generate new and exciting thrills for the small screen, including the latest hit on HBO Max, Malignant.
James Wan twisted the horror genre with his body-horror-centric Saw films that kicked off in 2004, glorifying torture as a form of horror. More gnarly themes and truly grotesque scenes formed the gut-wrenching reputation around the franchise, and Wan continued on with his journey through horror with pieces such as Insidious and The Conjuring, playing more with more paranormal themes compared to straight-up human dismantlement.
Creaking doors and jump scares were expected, if not a staple, to Wan’s franchises as he instrumentalized the sense of dread and demonic possession in a way of weaponizing his movies with fear. Malignant is a bit more bizarre than Wan’s other horror pieces, banking on its ludicrosity to draw in the unsuspecting HBO Max subscriber. There are spoilers for Malignant in this article.
Malignant‘s insanity spirals after Madison (Annabelle Wallis) finds her abusive husband Derek (Jake Abel) murdered by a mysterious entity, leaving Madison alone while being eight months into her pregnancy. After being knocked unconscious by the same entity that killed her husband, Madison is trapped in raw terror or sleep paralysis and psychic visions.
Every person who is killed in her dreams is killed in the “real life” realm of the movie, and Madison knows that she witnessed their murders. It’s discovered that these killings are traced back to her repressed childhood pre-adoption, where her “imaginary friend” commanded violent impulses out of her. Her “imaginary friend” is revealed to be part of her as a teratoma, or an extreme tumor made of hair, teeth, muscle, and bones. If anything, it’s more of a parasitic twin that feeds off of its host.
Malignant is described as Wan’s most deranged horror film that can be said to be influenced by Suprisia, Ringu, and the wildly popular Halloween saga that is set to conclude, ending the cat-and-mouse chase between Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers. As peculiarly jarring as it is, there’s plenty of humor that flushes through the film due to Wallis straight-facing her way through the film as if it were an Angelina Jolie-starring horror.
It pulls from VHS-esque filming styles, haunted house tropes, slasher themes, and the heavy splatters of gore. Wan turns cliches into something incredibly disturbing, and while it’s easy to claim that there are cluttered ideas that struggle to make sense of one another, the director is so far out that trying to reel him in is unrealistic.
Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema can take home the title of being the studios behind the wildest movie of the year so far. Malignant was written by The Nun 2 scribe Akela Cooper who contributes to the havoc at hand. It’s not a surprise that Malignant is the number one movie on streaming at the moment, as it’s driven forward by Wan, and has a loyal fan following through the mainstream horror scene. Wan has extended himself past horror movies and directed Fast & Furious 7 as well as the DC Extended Universe Aquaman movies starring Jason Momoa.
Critics have agreed that Malignant will be remembered. for its absurdity, particularly in the film’s third act as it cashes in on all of Wan’s gory glory. There is no holding back as the severe stabbing exhibits no restraint, giving Wan the opportunity to go all-in and tear things apart (both literally and figuratively).
Malignant is the master of its own marketing, generating buzz around it due to word-of-mouth and the need from movie-watchers to discuss one of the oldest questions known to man: “what just happened?” Popularity around Malignant doesn’t exactly warrant a sequel (or two) to follow, but more so, encourages those who are recklessly curious to watch the movie for themselves. With more eyes on the movie, the faster it rises through the ranks and claims the #1 spot on streaming.