Malignant

Spooky season is upon us, at least in Hollywood’s heart and wallet. With Halloween creeping up (pun intended) in a little less than two months, the timing of James Wan’s nutty new horror movie “Malignant” could not be more strange...or silly. 

If you’re rich enough, you can see it from the comfort of your home on HBO Max until Oct. 11, but it’s best seen on the big screen. Not because it's good — the soapy acting speaks for itself — but so you can laugh along with others to an undercooked plot stuffed with drama, gore and a demon doing parkour. 

Appealing to its Hollywood horror tropes, “Malignant” begins in an obscure research facility, where Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie) is experimenting on some demonic patient she calls Gabriel. In a groundbreaking turn of events, Gabriel breaks out of said prison, killing a few workers for the vibes before he disappears into the void. Flash forward to the present, to Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a pregnant woman getting roughed up by her asshole of a husband. One gruesome murder later, Madison starts to get visions of murders connected to her past and the mass-murderer demon Gabriel. It eventually becomes a race between Madison’s sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) and the suspiciously handsome detective Kekoe Shaw (George Young) to find the culprit. 

You may know where this is going. Then again, maybe you don’t. 

Aside from the end, this movie is predictable. It may be gruesome, with plenty of disfigured bodies and graphic surgeries, but it’s not scary. Instead of building suspense, it relies on jumpscares, dumb people making even dumber decisions (per usual) and a dramatic chorus of staccato violins to build the already broken tension. The score is poorly chosen, making “Malignant” feel more like “Fast and Furious” than “The Conjuring.”

Shockingly, the dialogue is flat, which is saying a lot for a horror movie. Whenever someone speaks it’s like they’re reading a book out loud in English class, and every sentence is straight out of a John Green book. This, combined with shitty acting, is a perfect recipe for unrealistic characters. Especially when said characters make stupid-ass decisions. “Malignant” is supposedly a horror movie, so inevitably the characters have to be dumbasses. But is following a demon alone into a dark sewer really police protocol? 

With a thin storyline also comes half-baked character development. The basis of many good horror movies is the protagonist, the emotional crutch that gives you someone to root for. Madison is the opposite of this. It’s almost easier to root for the villain, especially when you don’t care if the protagonist lives or dies. 

The only thing that gives “Malignant” flavor is the twist. Everything leading up to it is predictable, and it takes a while to get there, but once you get over the drudgery of Madison’s mopping, the film takes a 360-degree turn. The half-hearted horror movie turns into an entertaining, semi-gory action-packed film filled with epic fights, knives and a demon ninja showing off his skills. 

But in the case of “Malignant,” the end still does not justify the means. Even if this underwhelming horror movie were released on Halloween, it wouldn’t make a difference. Unless of course you’re in the mood to laugh, not scream.