Over the last two decades, James Wan’s helmed some of the biggest movies in history, helping to build multiple cinematic universes and long-running franchises while also making classic haunted house stories cool again. However, while his profile has extended outside of horror, tackling the underwater world of Aquaman and the skyscraper-to-skyscraper driving mayhem of Furious 7, Wan’s still got his heart in things that go bump in the night. And honestly, it’s still what he does best.
By the looks of things, Malignant, Wan’s latest tale of suburban terror, trauma manifesting as demons, and whirling cameras, is a marriage of all his interests. Owing as much to his time in Atlantis as his time with Patrick Wilson’s family-focused haunts, Malignant promises a stylish, special effects-heavy horror movie.
Malignant appears to lean heavier on the Insidious side of things, what with a plot focused on childhood trauma literally haunting a woman well into adulthood. Conjuring-verse vet Annabelle Wallis (Annabelle) plays Madison, a woman with the psychic ability to see murders as they occur. Meanwhile, a demon with really long nails named Gaberiel that’s been haunting her since childhood returns for another bite at the apple.
The trailer looks like a mixed bag for the most part. There are flourishes of style, with Wan bathing his visuals in hard blues and reds, evoking the Italian horror films of Dario Argento—one might even say it’s pitched toward Giallo at times. However, the CGI transformation effects don’t elicit the tactile scares that made The Conjuring and Insidious so effective. Still, Wan’s track record for delivering classically staged horror movies (well, aside from Saw) is strong enough to be excited for his latest. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go overboard with the massive budget Warner Bros. seemingly laid out for him.
Malignant comes to theaters and HBO Max on September 10, 2021.