By Laurie Coker
Admittedly, horror films don’t thrill me. I prefer old-school scary movies like Hitchcock’s. He knew how to terrify with implication and camera angles and not gratuitous violence and floods of blood. Director James Wan’s ‘Malignant’ does use some impressive approaches to the terror factor, but ultimately, he relies far too much on implausibilities and gore. He has created a villain that warrants awe built into a plot and premise that do not.
After an altercation with her husband that ends with her head bleeding and him on the sofa, Maddie Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis), a mother-to-be, begins to “see” murders committed by a bizarre being named Gabriel (a recognizable Ray Chase). His victims are those who wronged him in his early life. Maddie stands as a spectator in bloody and violent visions of the killings which begin with her husband. She finally realizes that Gabriel is a figure from her own mysterious past and that only their connection can stop his vicious killing spree.
Wan’s revelation of Gabriel‘s origin comes too slowly and, in truth, borders on idiotic. He does, however, create an imposing figure even if the story is ludicrous. The rage-filled murderer is vividly imagined as a blend of diverse special effects and clever cinematography – lighting plays a key role here too. Wan’s creature has the mad skills of a demonic puppet bent on killing and to hell with those who try to stop him. The beast is rightfully and disgustingly creepy despite its utterly unbelievable premise. Supernatural? Yes, but then why try to lend plausibility to something so insanely impossible. The images of terror and evilness are there, but watching Gabriel blow violently through bodies begins to wear thin. An entire cell of female prisoners and the cops outside are shredded in a matter of a few minutes.
All are pretty gross to watch, especially images of Gabriel pushing out of Maddie’s skull and twisting and writhing into his complete form. This is where the fear factor stops and stomach-turning special effects kick in, creating a villain as grotesque as any other, if not more so. Faulty storytelling aside, Wan’s vision will please his fans and terrify the faint at heart. This genre displeases me for the most part, but I can see the engagement factor of Wan’s film. I am placing a C+/B- in the grade book. I am trying to see through the eyes of fans of the genre.