Malignant (Digital)

October 4, 2021 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“It’s time to cut out the cancer.”

James Wan is no stranger to horror films. In 2004, he gave us Saw – the one that started it all. And, several installments and a few spinoffs later, the franchise is still chugging along. Likewise with 2013’s The Conjuring, it too served as a springboard for an entire universe of horror-inspired films. We can forgive him for Insidious and maybe even Furious 7, though it’s quite the feat to direct a horror film and a “Fast and Furious” film in one resume. With Malignant, Wan comes back to his roots – a new and unique horror film that has more to it than meets the eye. It’s a testament to Wan and the millions of dollars he’s made Warner Brothers, though, that he was likely able to convince them to fiance this new thriller. Was it money well spent by the studio? Let’s find out.

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) has been abused by her husband Derek (Jake Abel). She loses her baby and Derek is killed by something that can only be described as a shadow. In the film’s prologue, we get a glimpse of something that’s happened to Madison in the past and, as a result, we see some of those same faces get their comeuppance in a most violent way. There seems to be a connection between the murders and Madison seems to be able to see them as they take place. Two Seattle police, Kekow Shaw (George Young) and Regina Moss (Michole Briana White) try to figure out what’s going on. All the while Madison’s sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) tries to shed some light on what’s going on.

And that’s it. That’s all you get. For me to tell any more would be to compromise the plot and I don’t want to do that. The less you know, the more fun you’ll have.

I’m always up for a good scare and while I don’t know if this one really succeeded there, it did keep my interest. Oddly, I’d chosen to watch another horror film the other day, Final Destination, in which the main character was able to “see” the deaths of his friends coming. Maybe it was meant to be that I’d pick this one that shares that same trait? No matter which side of the fence you’re on, we all know that James Wan is a talented writer and director and horror is his bread and butter.  I wasn’t sure what to expect in the film’s third act, but suffice it to say that it’s…unique to put it lightly. Nevertheless, Malignant should provide enough entertainment for its 111 minute running-time to keep even the most rabid fan at bay.

Video: How’s it look?

HBO Max does a good job with Warner’s titles and this is certainly no exception. The image is crystal clean and sharp throughout. Malignant is beautifully shot, with Gaillo-influenced uses of color that serve to accentuate the strangeness of the plot. Couple that with the “Hitchcockian” way he uses to tower over the interiors of a home (as if the camera is flying) and we’ve got a very visually-aggressive picture. The 2.39:1 HD encode makes use of the entire screen and if you’re familiar with Seattle, you’ll see plenty of landmarks along the way. Detail is amazingly sharp, not something that is always a positive when you see the faces of victims caved in from multiple stab wounds. Nevertheless, if it’s a good-looking picture you’re after – look no further.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I’ve seen films on HBO Max that were broadcast in Dolby Atmos and then in DTS HD Master Audio when they hit disc. I’d say that if a 4K version is released (and I have to assume it will be), then we’ll get an Atmos mix on the disc. As it stands, this one had a few moments (as is the case with most horror films) that really took me by surprise.Vocals are clear and crisp, surrounds used sparingly yet effectively and the film has a strange ambiance that presides over the entire running time. Sound, in this case, is movie’s friend. While not over the top and/or in your face, Malignant provides us with more than enough to keep us going.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As with most Warner films shown on HBO Max, these features are barely worth the time and most don’t make it to the disc when it arrives.

  • Malignant: Horror Roots – Director James Wan talks about the project and “taking horror in a new direction.”
  • Malignant: Nightmares & Dreamscapes – Wan shares with his his “nightmarish” inspiration for the film.
  • Trailer #2 – What happened to trailer #1 is a mystery.

The Bottom Line

While not perfect and not his best work, I still found Malignant a good use of my time. I’ve been a fan of Wan’s horror work for a long time and he clearly “gets” it. That and having just visited Seattle a few years ago, there are some pretty good shots of one of my favorite towns.

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