James Wan’s Most Outrageous Horror Movie is Streaming Now on Hulu
Before M3GAN, there was Malignant.
Few contemporary filmmakers have had as much of an impact on the horror genre as James Wan. His 2004 breakout hit, Saw, not only spawned an entire, still-ongoing franchise but also briefly popularized a torture-centric form of horror filmmaking. Less than a decade later, he directed the first installments of what are now major franchises in Insidious and The Conjuring, both of which cemented his place as one of the most capable horror directors and stylists working today.
While Wan has spent the past few years focusing more on action franchises like the DCEU and Fast and Furious, too, he did find time in 2021 to direct his wildest horror movie to date. The film in question, Malignant, hails from Wan and M3GAN screenwriter Akela Cooper, and it’s every bit as outrageous, horrifying, and fun as that creative pairing suggests. It is, perhaps, the most straightforward homage to Evil Dead director Sam Raimi that Wan has ever made — and it’s worth seeking out solely for its sheer, unabashed creative spirit.
Fortunately, it just so happens to be available to stream right now on Hulu.
Malignant follows Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis), a woman with a mysterious past who is not only pregnant when the film begins, but also trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband, Derek (Jake Abel). After Derek attacks her one night, Madison tragically loses her baby and begins to experience terrifying visions involving a mysterious murderer. Her world is turned further upside down when she realizes — much to her horror — that her visions aren’t as divorced from reality as she’d previously thought.
To say much more about Malignant’s plot would be to undercut much of the film’s zany, unexpected power. What should be noted, however, is that Malignant is not the film many expected it to be leading up to its release, nor is it the somewhat bland horror thriller that its first act suggests. It is, in all actuality, an ultraviolent slice of horror comedy that is so narratively ridiculous and magnificently directed it’ll likely leave most viewers slack-jawed the first time they watch it.
It’d be an understatement to call the twists Malignant takes in its second and third acts merely “surprising.” With just a handful of midpoint reveals, the film transforms from a seemingly by-the-numbers horror blockbuster into a bizarre horror comedy that has a far gnarlier and snarkier sense of fun than anyone could have rightly seen coming. It’s part Jacob’s Ladder, part Insidious, and part Evil Dead II, and its various tonal elements are all brought together by Wan’s go-for-broke, maximalist visual style.
Like all horror comedies, Malignant isn’t for everyone. The film’s tongue-in-cheek self-awareness is, at times, purposefully off-putting, especially when combined with its unrepentant bloodlust. That said, those who are able to get on the same frequency as Wan and Cooper will likely find themselves having more fun with Malignant than most other studio horror movies of the past few years. It’s a big, bold creative swing, one that manages to make time for a bloodbath in a police station that is simultaneously exhilarating to watch and laughably goofy.
The same goes for a jail cell throwdown that is, to put it simply, one of the most deranged sequences in recent mainstream horror history. It’s not every day that a filmmaker as established as Wan gets the chance to truly and completely let loose on-screen, but that’s exactly what he does in Malignant.