Today I want to talk with you about a movie I enjoyed, about a lady who has visions only to find they are coming true.
Malignant is a supernatural horror film, it was released in 2021 and directed by James Wan. It was written by James Wan and Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper.
Modern-ish day America.
Our main characters are:
- Madison – our main character
- Sydney – Madison’s sister
- Gabriel – I’m saying nothing.
- Detectives Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss
- Dr. Florence Weaver & Victor Fields & John Gregory – doctors at Simion Hospital
The film starts in 1993, in Simion Hospital, with Dr. Weaver, Victor Fields and John Gregory treating a psychiatric patient, Gabriel. Gabriel has apparently got magic powers, as he is able to eat electricity and broadcasts his thoughts via speakers. Unfortunately for everyone Gabriel turns violent and kills a bunch of people in the hospital. Dr Weaver claims she can’t fix him and they have to cut the cancer out.
The film then jumps forward in time by twenty-seven years, and we meet Madison, who is pregnant and living with her abusive husband Derek. Derek attacks Madison giving her a head injury before she locks herself in the bedroom and falls asleep. She had a dream about someone breaking into their home and killing Derek. When she wakes up Derek is dead and she is attacked by the invader.
Madison wakes up in hospital after the attack, and is told, by her sister, that her unborn child did not survive. She is interviewed by detective Shaw and his partner Regina Moss.
Once at home it is revealed that Madison was adopted when she was eight and she can’t remember anything else, she then goes on to have another vision, this one of the killer murdering Dr Weaver. She then goes on to have another vision of Dr Fields getting murdered and goes to the police.
Shaw and Moss, find evidence that Madison has a history with Dr Weaver, being that Dr Weaver specialized in child reconstructive surgery.
The killer reaches out to Madison and reveals himself to be Gabriel. Madison and Sydney reach out to their mother to learn more and it is revealed that Gabriel was Madison’s childhood imaginary friend. During this time Shaw find Dr Gregory’s body.
The detectives work with Madison and a hypnotherapist to uncover Madison’s memories and hopefully solve the case.
Madison recalls that her birth name is Emily May and that Gabriel wanted her to kill her sister while her mother was pregnant. She came close to doing it but was able to stop herself.
A woman that Gabriel kidnapped earlier is found in Madison’s house and Madison is arrested. The woman turns out to be Madison’s birth mother.
Sydney visits the now-abandoned Simion hospital and discovers that Gabriel is Madison/Emily’s twin brother who lives within her body as an extreme version of a “teratoma”, sharing the same brain and spinal cord as her.
When the two were born Gabriel was a half-formed child facing out of Madison/Emily’s back. Weaver operated and was able to remove all of the tumor except for the brain.
Gabriel was dormant after childhood but woke up when Derek hit Madison/Emily’s head. Gabriel’s face now emerges from the back of Madison’s skull and operates her body backwards when he takes control, explaining the killer’s unnatural movements and the upside-down fingerprints at his crime scenes.
While Sydney is discovering this Gabriel takes control of Madison in prison and kills everyone and goes to the hospital where the birth mother is. Shaw and Sydney find Gabriel there and Sydney tells Madison that Gabriel is the reason her pregnancies kept failing. This wakes Madison up and she fights and defeats Gabriel
My Thoughts: Overview
Honestly, I had to watch this, how could I not. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it but the one consistent thing I knew was that it was bonkers.
Overall I found this to be fun.
I don’t normally talk about the technical side of filming as it is not my area of expertise, but even I noticed there were some really cool shots in this film, really great action sequences and the sound design was great.
There were a few plot holes, especially by the end and the tone of the film seems to change. It starts of creepy playing with the concept of an unsolvable mystery with good tension and high stakes. However once the mystery is solved which happens around the beginning of the third act the tone shifts and I found myself snickering.
My Thoughts: Characters
Maddison was an interesting character, even if at times her brain seemed to be turned off. She was a good vehicle for the story to be told through. Her motivations were believable even if she had square brain occasionally to suit the plot.
There isn’t a lot of character development in this film, it isn’t a character heavy film, it’s main focus is figuring out whats happening and why. But despite not being the most well explored bunch I have no major complaints about the characters, they were fine. Even if the detective can’t shoot for shit.
My Thoughts: Plot & Theme
The plot is reasonably well structured, at least through the first two acts. It kind of goes wonky in the third act. The tonal shift in the third act is a bit distracting, we go from a serious film regarding a serial killer with a potentially supernatural twist to a body horror film with a kind of goofy monster. I suspect Gabriel is designed to represent the darker impulses that we all have, but I honestly think it would have worked better if he was a split personality or something, literally making him a teeny person on Madisons back just made me giggle. Lookit his tiny arms.
The film taps into various fears, a lot of the film is shot in darkness, for obvious reasons, but it plays into the instinctive fear we have of the dark, of being under threat and not perceiving it.
I’m not sure if you’d call Gabriel a literal monster, the film has him behaving like one and he certainly looks on one, and there’s also the unsubtle location of Gabriel, referring to how the real monsters can be inside of us all. But then does that make Gabriel the representation of the darker side of Madison given voice? If that’s the case, would you consider him a monster?
The stakes are made clear throughout the film, solving the mystery, surviving Gabriel, protecting the family etc.
Now time for my nit-picks:
- How did Gabriel survive? By eating foetuses? what did he do before she was pregnant? How the hell did that work?
- Maddison’s sudden ability to control the mindscape? She picked that up quick.
- Where did the electric powers come from? What was the point of them.
- How did Gabriel learn parkour?
Lastly, I would be remis if I didn’t point out the similarities between this film and the story of Edward Mordrake. Edward Mordrake was a man who lived in the 19th century in England, who’s twin was literally in the back of his head, Edward claimed the twin was evil and would whisper to him. He completed suicide at age 23.
My Thoughts: Do I Recommend
If you can turn your brain off then you’ll enjoy this. It’s bonkers fun.