The thing about James Wan’s “Malignant” is that it’s utter nonsense, until that moment it isn’t. All becomes clear. Ish.
And the damned monstrosity that it was up until now abruptly becomes even worse.
Who knows what Wan, who finally graduated from his lucrative and critically-honored horror ghetto to direct “Aquaman” into blockbuster status, was thinking in flinging this crap against the wall? Kids heading to very expensive colleges, maybe?
But whatever his motives, the director of “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” takes a big’ol swing and a miss with this misguided tale of a woman whose childhood “invisible friend” acts and sounds an awful lot like Venom.
Genre veteran Annabelle Wallis (“The Mummy,” “Annabelle”) stars as Madison, a very pregnant nurse with an abusive husband (Jake Abel) and a history of miscarriages.
All it takes is one shove against the wall and we figure “There goes another one,” but this time, she wakes up to a dead husband and only a vague notion of what happened to relate to the two cops (Michole Briana Whit and George Young) who investigate.
When people start dying and she starts getting phone calls from some hairy, reverse-jointed “Ring” entity, we think back to the opening scene of “Malignant,” at a research hospital where somebody named “Gabriel” is going through staff like a serial killer through hot butter. We get a glimpse of him. And maybe we remember what the title “Malignant” infers.
Maddie Hasson and her wonderbangs play Cindy, the sister who tries to help Madison piece together her past and how it relates to her present, and dashes in and out of Greater Seattle in her Prius, looking for answers.
But everything she and her sister relate to the detectives gets Wanda Sykes-style sass from Det. Moss (White).
As in “You mean to tell me your IMAGINARY childhood friend did this?” And after Madison and then the other detective see this monster of the night in the flesh and get a police artist to sketch “it” — “So, I’m putting out a BOLO (Be on the LookOut) on ‘Sloth’ from ‘The Goonies?'”
And before you say “So, it’s having a laugh?” No. Those are the only two jokes in it.
So, not funny. Not scary. Aside from dull, what else’ve you got?
The effects, which include an impressive room-morphing-into-a-different-room effect and a horror filmmaker’s wet dream of a chase through the long-abandoned bowels of Seattle, are the standout feature of the film, what Warners was really paying for when they hired the director of a lot of Lionsgate and then Universal horror movies (and “Furious 7″) to be their DC/”Aquaman” guy.
The violence is of a bashing/stabbing/slashing variety, and spills an awful lot of fake blood.
But this, for want of a better word “script,” based on a “story” Wan collaborated on? Yuck. For a minute or three, after we’ve seen the very-pregnant Madison and after we’ve gotten that flashback of “Gabriel,” who looked an awful lot like a fetus back in 1993, I thought this might be a horror film riff on abortion, at least in an allegorical sense.
It’s the sort of enterprise where a character dashes off to that now-abandoned, cliffside NYC Dakota-looking high-rise research hospital, reads the dust-covered wall directory and sees only two floors and the basement listed. The other 10 stories? They’re just on the OUTside.
If you stick around long enough — and I don’t advise that — you can see legendary stuntwoman and Tarantino favorite Zoë E. Bell in the inevitable police holding cell (with slaughter to follow) scene.
Performances? Nobody in this will be topping their resume with it. Neither will the director. Let’s hope it’s just a blip, a disaster soon to be forgotten by him and the studio that wrote the checks for it. I’m pretty sure he already has.
Rating: R for strong horror violence and gruesome images, and for language (profanity)
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, Michole Briana Whit and George Young.
Credits: Directed by James Wan, scripted by Akela Cooper. A Warner Bros. release.
Running time: 1:50