Warner Bros. is continuing its commitment to release all its movies, big or small, on HBO Max at the same time as in theaters, and that’s now the case for James Wan’s Malignant, out now.
Wan’s new horror entry, after giving us the Saw universe and The Conjuring universe, may not spawn yet another universe, but it has given us what I would consider one of the best new horror villains in the genre in at least the last decade, if not longer.
That would be Gabriel, but before we talk about Gabriel, we are going to need some serious spoiler warnings, as his reveal is the main twist of Malignant.
One of my main problems with Malignant was that the movie had seemed to spoil itself from the opening minutes. For the first two thirds, we see a mysterious figures creeping around, murdering people, and we know that he is intimately tied to Madison. The horrifying intro, the references to childhood reconstructive surgery, and the repeated phrase “cut the cancer out” seemed to give a pretty clear picture of where this was heading.
The idea I had in my head the whole film was that Gabriel was previously a conjoined twin with Madison. He was “cut out” and then presumably, discarded, but managed to survive, grow into a misshapen adult, then sets out to get revenge on those who wronged him.
The other option? An even lamer twist, where Gabriel died and it’s been Madison hallucinating his existence the whole time and she’s the real killer. I’ve seen that movie before.
But the actual answer is a mix of both of these, stranger and better than either.
The reveal is that Gabriel was not a fully conjoined twin, but a weird, half-absorbed fetus that shared a torso and half a brain with his sister. Most of him is cut away, but his face, and the shared brain, remain inside Madison’s skull.
So, Madison is sort of the killer, and yet the glorious reveal is that when “awakened” Gabriel pushes his face out the back of her head, and controls Madison’s body…backwards, dislocating her joints and moving her around like some sort of demonic puppet. Gabriel, I forgot to mention, also effectively has super powers, the ability to blow up electronics and with super strength, speed and agility.
The end result? Gabriel, in “full backwards form” is one of the most insane horror villains I’ve ever seen on screen, which creates some of the most insane action sequences in a horror movie I’ve ever seen, like when he singlehandedly murders an entire holding cell of women and then almost all the cops outside. I really want to watch a documentary to watch how any of this was filmed. How much of this was CGI, prosthetics and stunt work? It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a movie and been genuinely perplexed by how something was filmed, but that’s how wild Gabriel’s design is.
The catch with Gabriel? This seems like a trick you can only pull once. The reveal of his true form is the highlight of the film, so I’m not really sure what you do for a potential sequel here. Though we know James Wan loves his sequels, so I would not be surprised to see one. He’s far more creative than me, however, so I’m sure he has more ideas. I just want to see more Gabriel, however he comes back.
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