Malignant (2021) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The episode of Deconstructing… covering Malignant was Written, Edited, and Narrated by Kier Gomes, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Malignant (watch it HERE) is your worst nightmare. Whenever the mood strikes and I’m looking for a spooky, atmospheric midnight movie to deliver on the thrills and chills, I’ll turn to Malignant to satisfy the craving. It’s a movie that showcases every one of James Wan’s directorial sensibilities and combines what we love about of each of his films. It’s got the sleepy and somber look of Insidious, the cold and foggy lighting of Dead Silence and the utter brutality of Saw– while also giving us the incredible cinematography and unsettling horror of The Conjuring. There’s a specific feeling that Malignant evokes which makes you as intrigued as you are afraid. A specific “sleep walking through your house at 3am” energy which brings you into a lucid state as you meander through your dreams. In a lot of ways, it makes you feel like the entire movie takes place in the Further dimension from Insidious. You’re not quite asleep, yet you’re not quite awake. You’re just drifting through the unfolding mystery and hoping to wake up. It’s a film that I was worried would only be entertaining once, as the mystery of the film is lost once the twist has been revealed. But I’ve seen this movie a handful of times since its release in 2021 and for some reason, I like it even more now than I did originally. And of course, I had to understand why.

So, what better way to figure out why Malignant is such a stand out film while also giving the praise that it deserves than to put the movie under a microscope and figure out once and for all why Malignant is your worst nightmare. I’m Kier Gomes with JoBlo Horror, and you’re watching Deconstructing

Malignant is the story of Madison Mitchell- a shy woman who is plagued by unexplainable visions of brutal and violent murders. As Madison aims to discover why she’s having these visions, she slowly uncovers a deep and disturbing web of mystery that reveals that she’s closer to these deaths than she could’ve ever expected.

The film was written and directed by James Wan and co-written with Ingrid Bisu and Akela Cooper. While everyone’s favorite James Wan movie is a matter of personal taste, I must say that this movie is one of the most visually appealing James Wan movies to date. With the use of intensely saturated and dramatic lighting, contrasting colors (which we’ll talk about) and sweeping and grand cinematography, this movie is exactly the visual stimulation you need from a classic horror tale.

And as we do on this show, we’re going to break down Malignant into our four key categories to fully express the movie. First, we’re going to look at the origin, where I talk about the movie from a pre-production standpoint. Then we’ll get into the movie’s legacy, which should be fairly easy considering the film is not only recent, but also probably not going to get a sequel any time soon. Then I’ll test your horror brain with some trivia and give you some fun facts about the film before we get into the X-Factor where I talk about the unsung details of the movie that make it such an icon-status-worthy story.

So, if you’re ready then follow me into the darkness, and don’t forget to drop a like on the video- and let’s hit play on Malignant.


Now, to get the obvious out of the way. This movie shares some plot elements in common with the cult-classic horror franchise, Basket Case. Basket Case is the story of Duane, a shy man who carries around his disfigured adjoined twin l, Belial, in a wicker basket after being surgically separated as babies. When Belial gets the chance, he aims to track down and brutally murder the doctors who separated the them. While Basket Case focuses on the relationship between the siblings, Malignant uses the anointed twin angle as a twist in the story that explains why Madison is able to see these murders so vividly despite seemingly not being the killer.

The screenplay for the film was written by Akela Cooper and Wan was set to direct it as early as 2019. Cooper does not cite Basket Case as the inspiration for the film, but she did say that her fascination with medical anomaly horror was partially in credit to Edward Mordake, which was her inspiration for Gabriel, Madison’s long-dormant adjoined twin brother who is revealed to be the one committing these violent murders.

Michael Burgess was Wan’s cinematographer on this film (as well as many others) and he pulled out all the stops for this one. The movie literally looks like every frame is meant to be wallpaper on your laptop. There’s dynamic camera movements, special rigs, meaningful blocking and for god sakes just look at this.

The movie was given a budget of roughly $40 million and since a good portion of the movie takes place in the same 3 locations, the budget feels big and the film looks expensive. I love it SO much.

Now, this film was shot in 2019 before the first round of COVID-19 shut studios down. So the making of the film was unaffected by the world’s events, but the movie’s release was where it all went to hell. Which reminds me, let’s get into the film’s legacy.

Malignant Deconstructing


Let’s address the disgusting parasitic elephant that’s attached to the back of our heads, this movie flopped. It made less than $35 million at the box office and essentially has become one of the many great movies to go straight to Max for streaming. Now, am I saying that this movie is too damn good for that? Well, yes.

Malignant feels like James Wan coming home. He brought back the elevated-reality lighting and fog that created an otherworldly atmosphere, he had the sets dressed to look like gothic low-light almost Tim Burton-esque environments, he even gave us the signature red and blue light that became a staple of the insidious franchise.

But let’s be honest, when we talk about Insidious, we talk about the reveal. The reason I love this movie so much is because even after knowing that Madison’s visions are really just memories of her twin brother going on killing sprees while she’s asleep, the movie is endlessly rewatchable. Usually, something like this would hurt your ability to revisit the film because once you know the twist, the rewatch holds no mystery. But the brilliant thing that Wan did with this movie is leave enough clues and breadcrumbs in the movie to make revisiting it more interesting. You can kind of see little context clues that spell it out right in front of you, but in a way that makes you feel engaged.

For those of you that have seen this movie, let’s not pretend that the scene when Madison is in overnight jail doesn’t give you the f*cking creeps.


While Malignant didn’t do gangbusters at the box office, the movie has actually been praised by many notable celebrities who enjoyed it. Nicolas Cage went on record and stated that the movie was his favorite horror film of the year, and even the father of horror himself Stephen King tweeted about the picture calling it “Brilliant”. Hell, even Kier Gomes from the hit JoBlo Horror series “Deconstructing” went on record 10 minutes ago saying “Malignant is your worst nightmare.”

And did you know that the scenes that show Gabriel walking or running were done for real? Gabriel, of course, is attached to the back of Maddie’s head, so when he wants to move forward, the actor had to move backwards.rather than achieving this with VFX, production hired Marina Mazepa, a Ukrainian actress and contortionist who could create the unsettling movements.

And before we get into the X-Factor, let’s see if you can answer this question-

Which popular alternative pop song was used as an instrumental theme in the film?

A. Zombies by The Cranberries

B. Losing My Religion by REM

C. Where Is My Mind? By The Pixies

D. Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins

Comment your answers down below!

Malignant Deconstructing


Okay, folks. Here we are. For this episode. I could go into every detail of the visual aesthetic of this movie and each one of them could be the X-Factor in my opinion. I could literally put this movie on mute and just have it playing in the background on loop while I work. I’m not kidding, I’m doing it right now. But also- to give that the title of the X-Factor would be too easy. I would say the best aspect of the movie is the insane design of the Gabriel and the humanoid look of the character, but the entire twist of the movie kind of relies on this dude looking as disgusting and scary as possible.

But I’m the end, the X-Factor of Malignant exists only in the rewatch. It’s the thing that really takes this from being another decent James Wan film- and shoots it to the top of his catalogue. And that thing, is the relationship between the hero and the villain.

Maddie represents a person who’s broken from the very beginning. She’s in a toxic relationship that directly results in Gabriel being awaken after years of being dormant. Gabriel not only seeks revenge against the doctors that tried to destroy him, but he also is a parasitic presence in Maddie’s life that prevents her from moving forward. Maddie wants to be a mother, as she believes it will make her feel whole. But while dormant, Gabriel has been eating her babies from the inside to survive. This represents the unfortunate and all-too-common case of a person who wants desperately to feel complete, while someone or something toxic in their past does all they can to deny you that feeling. And I’m the end, Maddie isn’t free of this relationship, this obligation, this tumor. She’s instead cursed with all of the damage that came from her evil twin. It’s a story that reminds us that ignoring what plagues us is not a cure, but just one of many ways to sabotage our own happiness. And I don’t know about you, but that, is my worst nightmare.

A couple of the previous episodes of Deconstructing… can be seen below,. To see more episodes, and to check out our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

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