Malignant

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Pregnant Madison (Annabelle Wallis) returns from work to find the abusive slacker she married essentially lying in wait before the TV. The blow to the head she receives is enough to awaken Gabriel (Ray Chase), the monster inside her, a conjoined demon out for revenge against the doctors whose titular diagnosis unsuccessfully tried to cut him out. This isn’t a plot, it’s a full tilt battering ram, and the only way for it to hit the mark and still leave an esthetic aftertaste would have been to play it straight. One would think that James Wan, the architect of Saw, would have long since figured this out. Was it his time spent at Marvel (Aquaman) that led him to this disjointed slasher thriller, a camped-up soap opera right down to an evil twin and uniformly bland performances? (Madison’s revelation of adoption to step-sister Sydney [Maddie Hasson] makes As the World Turns look like Douglas Sirk.) And must Gabriel, who communicates telekinetically through anything with a speaker, sound like a younger version of John Kramer? Good to see Wan keeping alive the motif of the villain with filthy, mud-black hair obscuring the face made popular in the early 2000s. But at two hours, it could have used a shave. And what do we learn in the end? If a man can do it, so can a woman. A commendable message, but damn if we needed a character to spell it out for the audience. Everything Wan touches turns into a sequel, so may I suggest they name part three of the franchise Malignant Two More? (2021) — Scott Marks

Rated R | 1 hour, 51 minutes
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