REVIEW: “Malignant” shows horror fans where the genre is heading

Combining old gags with new tricks, this film attempts to bring everything to the table.


“Malignant” movie poster courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.

Ashton Kroeger, Contributing Writer

With spooky season just around the corner, movie theaters are already getting prepared with the release of several new horror films. One of these being “Malignant,” which is being shown in theaters right now and is also available for streaming on HBO Max.

This gore/psychological horror film directed by James Wan follows Madison Lake (Annabelle Wallis), a woman who has been plagued by visions and delusions of an evil voice telling her what to do. This voice, known as Gabriel, is believed to be her imaginary friend by her parents and doctors. With help from the doctors, they get this demonic voice under control for the time being where he remains dormant in Madison’s mind. It’s not until a confrontation with Madison’s husband where he bangs her head against a wall that Gabriel is reawakened.

With this, Madison is once again helpless to visions, not only of Gabriel terrorizing her but people from her past as well. Such people would include Madison’s birth mother, the doctors that performed treatment on her to pacify Gabriel, and the police officers who are trying to get a hold of the situation.

Gabriel, who now has a human form rather than just being a voice in these visions, only reveals himself to Madison when he is brutally abducting and killing people. In these visions, Madison is transported to the scene of the murders, but she is unable to move or warn the victims. The only way she can help is to inform the police, who helped her when Gabriel was in her own home, with the details of what she saw.

About halfway through the film, it feels very reminiscent of Netflix’s popular series “Stranger Things.” Both deal with hunting down a crazed monster terrorizing a town that can only be contacted by one girl, ineffectively shutting the monster away multiple times, unexplainable mind powers, and excessive flashing lights. With this in mind, we can easily see the direction the horror genre is heading in.

“Malignant” is the type of horror film that attempts to combine the old with the new. Similar to how “Stranger Things” is set in the 1980s but is pulled closer to the present by the sci-fi genre. With the retro setting and futuristic plot, the show becomes something everyone in today’s age can find interest in.

“Malignant” plays heavy with gore that was popular with classic horror films such as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Halloween” in the 1970s, combining with the paranormal style of horror movies that have gained increasingly more attention in the 2010s, like “The Conjuring” and “Insidious.”

This new addition to the genre shows how horror filmmakers have moved towards combining different subgenres to create something new and exciting for their audience. Because the new trend in the genre is psychological films, I believe that we will see more films with plots that keep us guessing and leave us never knowing what to expect.

​​Even though “Malignant” can be deemed as a psychological horror film since we are following the mental state of Madison through different periods of her life, the ending and plot twist were somewhat predictable. It was easy to guess partially what Gabriel was within the first thirty minutes of the film. However, this didn’t take away from the full revelation of Gabriel’s entire character and how he relates to Madison.

Horror is likely the hardest genre for film writers to make a completely original idea for, something where the jump scares aren’t predictable and we can’t guess plot twists based on context clues. Often, these writers have to go off of what’s trendy in the genre and what’s been done in previous films to make something that feels new. “Malignant” shows that apparent experimentation, being successful in some areas more than others.

Ashton Kroeger is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @ash.kroeger.