A woman finds that she has a psychic bond with a supernatural serial killer in Malignant. Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) is a woman who is hospitalized after an apparent home invasion results in the brutal death of Madison's abusive husband and the loss of her unborn child. Comforted by her sister Sydney Lake (Maddie Hasson), Madison is questioned about the home invasion by detectives Kekoa Shaw (George Young) and Regina Moss (Michole Briana White), who are puzzled by the lack of forced entry to Madison's home. Soon afterwards, Madison begins to have horrific visions of grisly murders committed by an entity that calls itself Gabriel. When the murders turn out to be really happening, Madison has to try and remember who repressed childhood to remember who or what Gabriel really is.
After taking a five-year hiatus from the genre, director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) makes his return to the horror genre with Malignant. The film kicks off with a prologue at a research hospital, where Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) first encounters the malevolent entity known as Gabriel and makes comments about having to “cut out the cancer.” Three decades later “Gabriel” makes his return and begins targeting people who worked at the research hospital. Gabriel has some sort of connection with the protagonist Madison, who has repressed childhood memories of Gabriel being excused by her adoptive parents as simply being an imaginary friend. However, the truth turns out to be something a whole lot more sinister.
James Wan is no stranger to the lack of originality that dominates the horror genre, since his most well-known films Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring all went on to generate multi-film franchises, for better or for worse. While there is some possible franchise potential of Malignant, I do think that James Wan should be commended for collaborating with screenwriter Akela Cooper on a highly original horror film in the age of reboots and sequels.
While there is a big supernatural element to the plot of Malignant, the film can also be described somewhat as a slasher film, with borrows some visual aesthetics from Italian Giallo films, particularly the use of red lighting and the black-gloved killer with the very ornamental-looking knife. I can't really talk too much about plot specifics without getting into spoiler territory, but Malignant does build-up to an insanely crazy and bloody climax, with a reveal that smart viewers might be able to guess, but not in the way that is depicted in the film.
Even though by the end Malignant does leave the door open for a possible sequel, I almost want James Wan's return to horror to be a one-and-done effort that doesn't join the rest of his films in being eaten by the franchise machine. I think the very fact that a film like Malignant even made it to theatres is an accomplishment in itself.