“Malignant” is, in short, a journey.

Black background with red letters and a drip down into a woman's head who's shaded red.

The official movie poster for 2021’s “Malignant.”

In a year filled with sequels and reboots (including “Saw: Spiral” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”), “Malignant” does not hold back on the gore, body horror and, most of all, the sheer ridiculousness of the film’s premise. The movie was directed by James Wan, the director of other popular horror movies like “Saw” and “The Conjuring.”

The main character, Madison, starts the movie off pregnant with a lowlife, abusive boyfriend. This doesn’t last long. They fight and her boyfriend slams her head against a wall. Madison shuts him out, forcing him to sleep downstairs for the night. As he’s sleeping alone, a half boogie man, half inhuman monster brutally murders him and leaves Madison an injured victim to her fourth miscarriage.

She soon becomes an involuntary spectator to the creature’s next kills. Madison starts “experiencing a bizarre combination of sleep paralysis and psychic visions,” according to The Ringer, as the scientists who put the monster through medical experiments are mutilated. As the killer, Gabriel, gets more bold and tries to coax her into remembering her past, those around Madison begin to uncover the horrific truth. 

Madison’s adoptive sister finds a set of old tapes from the hospital Gabriel so despises. Then, in a twist Rod Sering would be proud of, the sister discovers that Gabriel is a parasitic demon-spawn twin attached to the back of Madison’s head—much like Professor Quirrell and Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. 

Gabriel had been mostly removed from Madison, but couldn’t be completely exterminated from her brain. At this point, the doctors simply crossed their fingers (it’s a horror movie, after all).

This plan worked until her boyfriend smashed her head, causing Gabriel to start taking her mind and body for his own once more. Gabriel uses Madison’s body for a massive, gruesome killing spree in the climax of the movie. Luckily, Madison is able to gain control back of her body and keep Gabriel at bay—for now. The ending leaves the possibility of a sequel wide open, which is to be expected considering Wan’s other films and their franchises.

James Wan says the movie is in part inspired by Giallo films, a somewhat campy genre of thriller popular in Italy throughout the 60s and 70s. However, this isn’t evident in every scene. The movie is saddled with more modern traits of the genre, like being generally uncolorful (besides all the gore) and having a quippy police officer. By the third act, though, the influence becomes apparent. Between the killer’s stylish black leather outfit, the very pulpy twist and of course the main hallmark of the genre—a woman going insane—the movie turns from feeling like a fairly standard horror film to a truly bizarre experience. 

The movie in general is quite refreshing considering how original intellectual properties are difficult to come by in this day and age. Studios prefer to dump obscene amounts of money into fewer, safer projects every year, leaving any script that isn’t a sequel, remake, or reboot left for dead. Horror is given a bit more wiggle room as the movies of the genre tend to make better profits, but still, projects regularly fall victim to this. 

Now though, more than ever, creating truly unique experiences like “Malignant” is necessary to keep the genre thriving.

Natalie Katsaros can be reached at jaedynyoung@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.