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‘Malignant’: James Wan’s triumphant return to the horror genre

Director James Wan put into the poster for his new film. Graphic by Kyle St. John

It’s been nearly eight years since James Wan directed his last original horror film, “The Conjuring,” and it has been even longer since he’s been a lead writer for an original horror film, “Dead Silence” in 2007. 

After Wan’s success with the large-scale superhero film “Aquaman,” he decided to create a smaller-scale story with his next project, “Malignant.” For all intents and purposes, the film feels like a breath of fresh air for Wan; it’s also an excuse for him to cut loose and do what he’s wanted to continue with the horror genre for a long time.

“Malignant” follows the story of Madison Mitchell, a young woman who begins to experience a number of horrific visions where people get murdered in front of her by a mysterious figure known as Gabriel. This situation worsens for Madison when she comes to the realization that the murders are not simply visions, but are in fact happening in the real world.

From the beginning, “Malignant” weaves together an impressive mystery that will keep audiences guessing for the majority of the runtime. The film establishes many unknowns to the audience, such as Mitchell’s past, the choices behind each victim and the connection between Mitchell and Gabriel in the first place. It makes for an exciting and exhilarating watch, as the audience never truly has an answer to these questions until they are all revealed at once in the climax.

While it takes a bit to get to the climax, Wan pulls no stops with the R rating, making sure to amp up both the gore as well as the dark tones in the plot. It isn’t anywhere near as gruesome as “Saw,” Wan’s first major horror movie, but it’s definitely two steps above the gore in a PG-13 horror movie.

It isn’t just gore that sets aside Wan’s directing style apart from the rest, as he is constantly experimenting throughout the film with different shot perspectives, camera movements and overall visual flair to ensure that an audience member will not get bored at any point watching the film. 

“Malignant” is arguably the best major studio horror film to be released this year so far and a genuinely thrilling delight from beginning to end. 

The film is out now in theaters, and also available to stream on HBO Max until Oct. 10.

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