Review: Gory, goofy ‘Malignant’ a wild ride for horror faithful

Annabelle Wallis as Madison, a woman haunted by a mysterious figure, in “Malignant.” (Warner Bros. Pictures/TNS)
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Adam Graham The Detroit News (TNS)

Gory, inventive and delightfully ludicrous, “Malignant” is a surprisingly fun blood-splattered thrill ride that keeps taking new and twisty turns.

Director James Wan, the “Saw” writer and director who also started the “Insidious” and “Conjuring” franchises, returns to his B-movie roots here with the story of a woman who is haunted by grisly visions. The reason for those visions is a late-in-the-film revelation that turns the film on its ear and will have horror fans howling with delight in all the right ways.

Annabelle Wallis (“Annabelle”) plays Maddie Mitchell, who was adopted as a child and has always yearned for a blood connection to family. She’s pregnant when the movie opens, and loses her baby after her abusive boyfriend sends her to the hospital. (Don’t worry, he pays.)

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In flashback we visit a research hospital in 1993, where doctors are trying to control an out of control monster who speaks through tech devices like old radios in a horrifying, electro-pitched scowl. In modern day Seattle, this creature — clad in all black and with long black hair covering its face, like a Norwegian Black Metal boogeyman — is on a rampage against those docs, using a sword fashioned out of a trophy awarded for excellence in surgery. Talk about personal.

Just as Akela Cooper’s script begins to grow tedious, everything comes together and goes gleefully over-the-top. Wan, untethered and having a blast, uses all sorts of funhouse tricks with his camera, giving “Malignant” the feel of a ghoulish merry-go-round. By the time it stops, you’ll be ready to take another spin.

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‘MALIGNANT’

Grade: B

MPAA rating: R (for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language)

Running time: 1:52

Where to watch: Now playing in theaters and on HBO Max

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