James Wan’s ‘Malignant’ did not evoke a response from audiences and critics that was expected. However, many did appreciate its unique teratoma twist but moaned at the lack of plausibility. On a personal level and as a lover of horror films, ‘Malignant’ worked really well. Although it does not particularly fit in as a movie about spirits and exorcism but instead belongs to the slasher genre, where there are gory thrills that could match any horror film worth the kind of jump scares this movie offers. Wan’s films have always been about the abstract sense of danger.
You do not see the ghost/spirit/creature in the opening scene or any time soon, really. Its introduction is paced in a way for perfection with an enticing elevation. Seeing the beast meander the house in the first moments was a bit surprising, but Wan ensured that his grip on the mystery was strengthened through this choice.
We came up with the idea to write this article to give some clarity as to some of the aspects of the film that do not have a straightforward explanation. While there are a few that we do not have concrete answers to, we do our best to make sense and be reasonable.
If you haven’t seen this movie, please stop here as there are SPOILERS AHEAD…
For a spoiler-free review click here
MALIGNANT PLOT SYNOPSIS & SUMMARY:
‘Malignant’ starts twenty-seven years before the story’s timeline unfolds at the Simion Research Hospital. Dr. Weavers, along with her colleagues Dr. Fields and Dr. Gregory, examine the progress of a violent patient at the facility, Gabriel. During the recording, he goes 0ut of control, killing a lot of the staff, and the screen cuts to black. In the present, Madison Mitchell, a pregnant nurse, lives with her husband, Derek. The two have a fight, and Derek pushes Madison against the wall, thereby hurting her head. The same night, a mysterious force brutally murders Derek and attacks Madison, who loses her child in the process.
The killer is seen again and kidnaps an unnamed woman, while Madison reveals to Sydney that she is adopted. Madison has a vision where she sees Dr. Weavers being murdered by the killer but cannot move. Investigating detectives Shaw and Moss find a photo of a young girl at Weaver’s house. Madison yet again sees Dr. Fields being murdered like Weaver. Shaw then discovers that the girl in the picture is Madison, her real name is Emily May, and she was a patient of Weaver’s. Maidson is contacted by the killer, who is revealed to be Gabriel, from the first scene. Subsequently, Dr. Gregory is murdered as well. Sydney visits the Simion hospital to make a startling discovery that sets the tone for the rest of the film.
WHO IS GABRIEL?
As revealed by Dr. Weaver in a flashback recording, Gabriel is a teratoma, a rare form of cancer. His body is underdeveloped, and because he is unable to separate from Madison in their mother’s womb, he is attached to her spinal cord and her brain. Weaver also reveals that although they cut out cancer during the surgery, they could not thoroughly remove Gabriel because it would further complicate Madison’s health. It is shown in the recordings Sydney retrieves that Gabriel was assumed to be an imaginary friend of Madison and the fact that her mother had died during childbirth. But in reality, a 15-year-old rape victim, Serena May, gave Madison and Gabriel to the Simion facility at her mother’s insistence. Gabriel is the twin brother of Madison, who shares the same brain as her, but does not have a physical body of his own.
WHO IS COMMITTING ALL THE MURDERS HAPPENING IN THE TOWN?
When Madison’s head was smashed against the wall by Derek, Gabriel, who was lying dormant, was awakened. This sparked the events of the film. So, Gabriel is the person who murdered all the doctors and police officers at the precinct when he was awakened by bullying cellmates. Madison, as is revealed later, plays no part in the murders and is merely a mute spectator when Gabriel commits all the murders. Instead, he uses Madison’s body and moves by twisting her bones and joints. This also explains the creature’s abnormal and animal-like movements where its head and body seem to be going in different directions: the inverted appearance of the beast.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE VISIONS THAT MADISON IS HAVING?
There are several instances involving Madison when she doesn’t know her whereabouts, and we see the setting around her change to the environment of the murders. She remains motionless, unable to move or do anything, and we see Gabriel attacking the victims. The visions represent Madison’s mental prison, a place where Gabriel’s conscience takes over Madison’s physical body and controls it. In these instances, Madison is helpless and is delegated to remain behind bars. She can only see what is happening because she shares the same brain. Right from the first scene to the buildup to the climax, we see her being present wherever Gabriel murders because of this fact.
MALIGNANT MOVIE THEMES ANALYZED: THE TRIUMPH OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL
Probably the only and the most significant theme in ‘Malignant,’ but all James Wan films is the triumph of the inner goodness of human beings. In almost all horror films generally, a possessed person is reminded by their loved ones even when they do not have control of their own bodies about the power of love and the goodness inside of them. They make the possessed person aware that they are still inside their bodies somewhere and can stop the events by putting in an effort. In ‘Malignant,’ it is Sydney who reminds Maddison of how she is the one who will be able to control Gabriel with the power of goodness inside her. During the murder scene, we see Maidson trying to warn Detective Shaw about the presence of the creature that further shows how different she is from her twin, despite sharing the same brain.
MALIGNANT MOVIE ENDING EXPLAINED: WHAT HAPPENS IN THE END?
The violent ending of ‘Malignant’ is shocking, to say the least. Not in what happens, but how. Gabriel is awakened by cellmates bullying Madison and proceeds to brutally murder all of them, even those not participating. He moves to the hospital, where Serena is admitted after being tortured in Madison’s house. He attacks and kills everyone before making his way towards Sydney. She then calls out to Madison, believing her to be able to listen to her voice, and fills her with strength, explaining that it was Gabriel who killed all her unborn children. We then see Sydney’s attempts failing as she and Serena are both murdered by him. The settings change the way they did with Madison, who is actually baiting Gabriel into the mind prison using his own technique and is locked away forever. The last scene also shows a static that appears on the screen, indicating that Gabriel is still there with them and hinting towards a possible sequel.
Is Malignant A Bad Movie? Was It Supposed To Be A Joke?
James Wan’s Malignant has divided viewers with its ridiculous premise, but does that necessarily make it a bad movie? Was it intended to be a gag?
Since its release, James Wan’s Malignant has polarized audiences and even begged the question of if it was intended as a joke. While marketing for the film teased it would be in a similar vein to The Conjuring movies, Malignant heralds a return to Wan’s genre-bending outings of old like Dead Silence, which features a possessed ventriloquist doll. Although it may take a few more years for viewers to warm to it, the campiness of Malignant may make it a cult classic.
What makes Malignant so campy is its premise: a woman is haunted by waking dreams, witnessing real-time murders over which she has no control. The third act sees protagonist Madison (Annabelle Wallis) discovering a key, forgotten part of her past is to blame; her parasitic twin Gabriel. Doctors amputated him years ago, but a part of him lay dormant in her mind and now he’s enacting vengeance.
Malignant may be considered a terrible movie to those expecting the overt thrills of The Conjuring, but Wan intended it to be “the kind of 80’s horror/thriller you would discover on the back shelves of video-stores” in a Facebook post. These types of b-movies function to entertain the audience with cheesy dialogue, exaggerated acting, and gory practical effects. Mixed reviews aside, Malignant succeeds in this regard because it doesn’t take itself seriously and blends a variety of genres like horror, thriller, action, and even comedy. The sets are atmospheric and the pacing renders the tension leading up to the insane reveal even more palpable. The film understands exactly what it is trying to do and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Though Malignant does have its share of shortcomings, it also serves as an homage to the horror movies of yesteryear. Wan’s cinematic influences are rampant throughout while still delivering an original storyline. The big twist that Madison has a parasitic twin taking control of her body is just one of those audacious concepts that make B-grade horror so much fun.
Wan has had a storied career and it’s refreshing he has returned to his filmmaking roots. Without Dead Silence, which was critically panned, Wan might not have experimented with Malignant. While so many horror films follow the same tropes, the movie is a welcome departure because it leans more into the bizarre and outrageous. While undoubtedly not for everyone, hopefully, it will encourage more mainstream horror outings to take a similar, genre-bending approach.
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Until next time 🙂
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