Malignant (Story Analysis)

Malignant is a 2021 American horror film directed by James Wan from a screenplay by Akela Cooper, based on an original story by Wan, Ingrid Bisu, and Cooper. The film was released in the cinemas and on HBO Max in September 2021. Malignant is mainly a slasher movie, with faint unexplained paranormal tropes. 

S P O I L E R S 

As a slasher movie, Malignant is an obvious attempt to launch a new horror franchise around the character of Gabriel – a monstrous killer with immense strength and the ability to affect electricity around him. Similar to most slasher movies, the bad guy is in effect the protagonist of the story and Gabriel’s role is no different in Malignant. 

The starting premise is as follows – 

Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities. (IMDB)

This aspect of the plot – whether Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is connected with the killer (identified later as Gabriel) – is a misdirection, with an insane twist that viewers will either consider silly or a masterstroke. Thus, for the first two acts, viewers are left scratching their heads – is the killer a supernatural being, somehow broadcasting his dastardly deeds into the head of Madison? Or is Madison herself the killer as suspected by the police detectives? 

A bit of both actually. The back story that ties Madison and Gabriel is ultimately revealed to be the fact that the latter is the former’s parasitic twin (!) Now, this condition exists in real life but obviously not in the manner presented in Malignant. Even if one could accept that Gabriel existed as an independent being living literally on Madison’s back before being excised by an operation, the ability to live on as brain matter and exercising control over Madison’s body, and the various superhuman feats seen in the movie is stretching incredulity to say the least! 

One major distinction between Malignant and others in the slasher movie genre, is that there are no teenagers being massacred and the likelihood of a franchise coming out of Malignant is far-fetched. Which is probably a good thing. Malignant is good gory fun but make sure you leave you brain unplugged throughout! 

Now in the cinemas and on HBO Max.

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