Malignant (2021)

Director: James Wan

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Ray Chase

After kickstarting three popular franchises with SawInsidious, and The Conjuring, it's safe to say James Wan has a strong track record with horror. Followed by two $1 billion entries into pop-culture phenomenons, Wan had the clout to do whatever he wishes, so returned to the horror genre to go all-out for his blank check film.

It's always worth going into a film blind, though that's especially true here. What can be revealed is that Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is having visions of people's murders as they're happening, events she realises are linked to a previous childhood friend named Gabriel. There's a good reason why the marketing has kept back so much, as discovering what's actually happening is a fantastic ride to watch unfold.

Mainstream cinema often relegates Annabelle Wallis to thankless roles, such as 2017's The Mummy, so thankfully she's given the chance to shine here in the role of Madison. Struggling to navigate through life in the wake of massive changes, she's thrown by frightening visions occurring before her eyes. Offering support throughout is Sydney, her sister wonderfully played by Maddie Hasson who ensures their bond is worth believing in. A lesser film would've let this relationship slide yet the characterisation and performances ensure they're worth rooting for, much like the entertaining detectives played by George Young and Michole Briana White.

With a story concocted alongside Wan and Ingrid Bisu, Akela Cooper's screenplay brings alive a gonzo premise reminiscent of exploitation cinema. The direction grants more of a slick style than expected for this story, delivering copious amounts of gore in gruesome and unflinching kills, particularly in some of the year's best action scenes. While it may feel sluggish in the middle and some abilities of Gabriel feel unnecessary, it's worthwhile when the result is so enjoyable. Wan's crafted something unbelievably bonkers for mainstream cinema, and the audience this works for will have massive grins watching it all unfold.

Malignant is available in cinemas now and on HBO Max where available