Commentary: The Loose Logic Of ‘Malignant’

by Frank Martin

Filmgoers today can be rather strict. Stories and characters are torn apart and criticized at the slightest misstep. Audiences treat plot holes like some sort of prize they’re trying to find. It’s gotten so crazy that it’s become hard to just sit back and enjoy a film for what it is, even if it does have a ridiculous premise that makes no sense. Sometimes films embrace this by not taking itself seriously. It’s rare to find a film that does take itself seriously and yet still embraces its ridiculousness. This is the area where the innovative horror film Malignant shines.

James Wan is known for high concept premises in his horror films. Where Malignant differs from other works is that the premise itself is actually a twist revealed halfway through the movie. At first, the film is built up around supernatural horror, the audience isn’t meant to know exactly what’s going on. This is intended to simulate the shock of the main character, who also has no idea what’s happening to her. But by the end of the movie, the supernatural gives way to science fiction as the film’s real monster is revealed. By then, every ounce of realism is abandoned as the movie transitions into absurdism.

The logic of the film is completely out of the realm of reality. But rather than try to make it all work, the movie leans in to its insanity and embraces it. And that’s what makes the film so fun. But in order to enjoy it you have to shut off that critical part of your brain, the side of you that protests when things don’t make sense. It’s easy to do that in a comedy, which seeks laughter at the expense of rationale. It’s much harder to do that in a horror that’s not meant to be funny. Malignant pulls it off quite well. But you only get to appreciate it if you allow yourself to.

Malignant is now streaming on HBOMax.

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