The latest horror film from director James Wan (Aquaman, Insidious, Saw), Malignant, reminded me of early '80s gutter trash, specifically the entertaining Basket Case and The Beast Within (both released in 1982). Malignant is also accompanied by a synth rock score (Joseph Bishara) that echoes Italian horror gore films of the '70s and '80s. All this may sound like Malignant is a fun little splatter flick. It's not. Actually, it's pretty terrible because of an overcooked plot, some truly ear-achingly stilted moments of dialog, and the old overuse of CGI.
The movie opens in the past at a private hospital, where an unseen mutant wreaks havoc, that is until the doctors decide to put him in his place. Cut to present day where pregnant nurse Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is physically beaten by her garbage-of-a-human-being husband, Derek (Jake Abel). Madison ends up having a miscarriage and is constantly bleeding from the back of her head. Soon after, however, Derek is violently murdered by a shadowy figure. Madison witnesses the killing in a sort of waking dream. In fact, this happens every time the figure kills, and, boy, does he kill a lot. To say more would give away too much, but I was able to figure out what was going on pretty early into the movie.
Most movies are predictable, but they can still be a lot of fun regardless. Malignant, however, is dull and humorless, and the filmmakers seem to think that the big revelation is going to knock our socks off. Not if you see it coming.
When we do see the "being" that is the killer in its digital form, it is laughable because of how cartoon-y the effects look, and when the movie cut from the digital version of the killer to the practical, it doesn't match.
The film really drowns in its use of CGI. When Madison has a "vision" of a murder, she is transported to the scene of the crime. Every single time this happens, the camera spins around her and, through digital means, her original environment disintegrates into the location of the murder. We see this every time. To quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail: "Get on with it!"
Malignant is currently playing at the Prytania Theatres at Canal Place and is also available to stream on HBO Max.
* ½ stars (out of four)