[Movie Review] A Heaping Helping of What The Actual F#@% | James Wan’s Malignant (2021)

We went in blind to the much-anticipated Malignant by James Wan, the director of The Conjuring and co-director of Insidious.

And I’m so glad we did.

To start, there is no way I can review this movie without spoiling parts of it so this is your Spoiler Warning. Proceed with caution from this point forward.

Check out the Letterboxd review for no spoilers!

Paralyzed by fear from shocking visions, a woman’s torment worsens as she discovers her waking dreams are terrifying realities.

Malignant is currently streaming on HBO Max and is in theaters.

Okay. The first thing I need to say is WHAT. THE. FUCK.

But let me backtrack a bit. The first thing that struck me in this movie is the lighting. There’s lots of fog (especially where fog needn’t be, like inside a house), and contrasting lights (blue and red came up a lot).

It all gives the movie an ethereal feel, like we’re not quite watching something “real.” Everything feels like a fever dream, which, when you consider Insidious and “the in-between” in that movie, makes sense. That seems to be Director Wan’s M.O.

New Line Cinema

To get straight to it, our main character, Madison, played by Annabelle Wallis, is an adoptee of a nice family. She has a dark past she can’t remember post-adoption, however, and when we meet her she is pregnant–for the third time–and is suffering physical abuse at the hands of her husband.

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This abuse is short-lived, however, when, while sleeping on the couch, a darkened, lengthy figure kills the husband late at night and chases Madison upstairs. Her adoptive sister comes to the rescue as well as two detectives who learn about the abuse and obviously suspect Madison to be the killer.

Naturally, her sister and the police seek to get to the bottom of the situation–and know who she really is–so upon having her visit with a psychologist they discover that she is–surprise!–tied to this killer who is a figment of her imagination from when she was a child.

If you think that’s a lot–there’s more.

New Line Cinema

Malignant takes the alienation of adoption and ‘something being wrong’ with the adoptee to new gorier, and sometimes funnier, heights.

Basically, before she was adopted she had a teratoma – a tumor with eyes, teeth, hair, and fingers — behind her head and on her back. Think grotesque conjoined twin. Whose name is Gabriel.

Still with me?


So apparently the doctors who worked on removing said teratoma couldn’t remove the part of the brain that connected both Madison (real name Emily) to Gabriel. So they pushed said part of Gabriel into Madison’s head and closed it up.

I know…I know.

New Line Cinema

Remember that physical abuse I mentioned at the beginning of this review? Yeah. A particular blow to the head caused Gabriel to start reemerging. He’s been taking over Emily’s body during every murder in the movie–which is shown through pretty cool scene transitions placing Emily in the same area as the murders.

He wants to be accepted as far as I could gather, by their mother–who’s still alive but in a coma–so he’s killing everyone who removed him from Emily/Madison.

I won’t spoil the ending, but you can see where it’s going. It’s a very B-horror-movie-esque in both the acting at some points and how it’s shot which I think was intended. It’s definitely a funny, gory movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously (at least I hope it isn’t).

All in all, if you’re a fan of the sillier moments of The Conjuring and Insidious, you’re going to LOVE this movie. If you stick with the movie past the first hour, you will be rewarded for your patience with several twists that will blow your mind (if you didn’t read this review beforehand, that is).

As for me, I’ve seen many conjoined evil twin movies but this one is quite possibly the best for how hilarious it is.

Monster Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For an imaginative, wonderfully designed monster-within-or-in-this-case-attached-to-the-protagonist whose contortion skills were uncomfortable and mesmerizing to watch and whose kills were brutally and beautifully executed – 4 stars.

Movie Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Made super enjoyable past the hour mark if only for my guessing what the story was and being right–twice, Malignant takes the alienation of adoption and ‘something being wrong’ with the adoptee to new, gorier, and sometimes funnier heights.


  1. I’m glad someone found it as hilarious as I did! The soundtrack during the whole chase scene and the scene where the detectives/cops get absolutely massacred made it feel almost like an action movie. The sfx were great and well done, and I thought the whole teratoma twist was interesting. Definitely not what i was expecting from this movie, this movie has a very different feel to it than his Conjuring series. When i’m in the mood for a horror/action/comedy movie, this will be top of the list!

    1. Author

      Yes the beginning at the facility felt very action movie as well! I’m glad someone else feels the same. This is definitely gonna be, if it isn’t already, a cult classic!

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