By William L.G. Stephens
The opening sequence of “Malignant” resonates as if it was left on the editing floor of a “Stranger Things” storyboard room.
It’s all there, the dark hospital on the cliff, the disturbed patient being studied and the experimental score playing in the background.
With little advertisement, other than the ones that interrupt your YouTube videos, the newest addition of James Wan’s horror repertoire hit theaters on Sept. 9. James Wan has held the title of “King of Horror” for roughly fifteen years now and possesses the knowledge of what gets a reaction out of audiences and what doesn’t.
“Malignant,” however, has shaped itself into an accumulation of recycled parts from all his previous films. For example, the protagonist is hypnotized by an outside party in an attempt to remember her suppressed past just as they do in “Insidious.” Even the costume of the “Malignant” creature reminds us of “Insidious.” It’s yet to be known if this is done by design and I won’t be the one to spoil it for you.
“Malignant” tells the story of Madison Lake, who is carrying the child of her abusive husband. One night, a devilish figure enters her Victorian home and kills her husband while also knocking her unconscious.
The typical duo detectives, where one of them is cynical and the other is intrigued, investigating the string of crimes rule it a home invasion.
Meanwhile Madison, who is able to see the devilish figure attack his victims through visions as he commits the murders, is joined by her adopted sister. In the process, Madison discovers that the killer is linked to her childhood imaginary friend Gabriel.
With a muddy plot, and difficult to follow narrative, we are left with an arrangement of a film that is crippled by its uneven script and equally-in-comparison pacing.
Between the poorly written story of Madison and her biological mother added by an ample number of scenes that are garnished by poor dialogue such as “Hey, are you still here?” to the guy that sits roughly 15 feet away, this movie is riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies.
In a genre where suspense is everything, this is the Achillies heel of the film.
Much like an M. Night Shyamalan film, another horror director of this era, “Malignant” attempts to make up for its first two acts, with a clever twist in its third. As clever and as surprising as the twist may be. It eventually comes up short and does not make up for its 111-minute running time.
Luckily for us, this is a good-looking film that captures the landscape and aura of Seattle, Washington in an apprehensive way. Aided by a skillful eye behind the camera who showcases his talent for revealing what is around the corner and standing behind its prey.
With the choice to watch it in theaters or stream within the comfort of your home on HBO Max, I’d recommend staying home as there are far superior movie options to choose from.