“Malignant” a Horror Surprise

In theatres and on HBO Max

This head-scratcher of a horror movie is announcing its intentions as a new realm in terror, but its terrain of dreamscapes and damaged souls feeds on lots of tropes which have already been around for a while. A woman’s premonitions about a deranged killer’s next murders are just the beginning of the story in James Wan’s twisty thriller Malignant (B-), a slow burn of a tale that gets pretty unhinged in its final reel. In the protagonist role, Annabelle Wallis is effective as a troubled woman who may just have a connection to the gilded dagger wielding villain, but amidst many underwritten parts and plot threads, the sometimes hokey film often feels like the work of a first-time filmmaker rather than one who has been making Hollywood horror for some time. The psychobabble that bubbles up fairly far into the movie’s running time is evocative of early Brian de Palma films even though the camerawork and choreography rarely deliver much of a creative spark. It’s all more eerie than scary, and the film often seems enchanted with special effects and stunts that don’t add much to the storyline. Still, it casts a peculiar spell and keeps bringing in ways to keep things exciting, and the promised plot twists do indeed ratchet the proceedings up to a whole new level.

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