BAXTER — The horror of nightmarish daydreams come to life leads the main character in the new release “Malignant” to delve into her dark past.

The horror film stars Annabelle Wallis as Madison Lake, a woman deeply troubled by her childhood who experiences terrifying visions of a real serial killer committing heinous acts.

During these shockingly explicit visions of hers, Lake is paralyzed with fear and unable to act by the terror she sees, but can’t stop, even as suspicions grow about her involvement.


“I'm seeing things. ... I'm seeing murders as they're happening.”

— Madison Lake


“I’m seeing things. I'm seeing murders as they're happening,” Lake tells her skeptical sister and a pair of disbelieving homicide investigators from the Seattle Police Department.

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It is revealed that Lake was adopted as a child who had what many believed was an imaginary friend named Gabriel, who she repressed the memories of as an adult.

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Lake calls Gabriel the devil, but others remain convinced that she is using him as a scapegoat to cover her possible involvement in the killings or believe she is delusional and in need of help.

The mystery of the killer’s true identity and his motivation is at the core of the R-rated film distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures as well as the heroine’s efforts to stop his killing spree.

Silhouettes gather in an eerie fashion.
Contributed / Olesya Yemets
Silhouettes gather in an eerie fashion. Contributed / Olesya Yemets

Lake’s troubled childhood may hold the key to unlocking the mystery. But she must be brave enough to explore that chapter of her life that she thought was long buried.

Moviegoers may remember Wallis from her starring role in the 2014 supernatural horror film co-produced by James Wan as a prequel to his 2013 hit “The Conjuring.”

Wan directed “Malignant” from a story he co-wrote. Wan established his bona fides in the horror genre directing “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring,” just to name a few of his blockbusters.

The Asian-Australian also directed the 2018 superhero film “Aquaman” and its sequel, which will be released in December of next year.

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Particularly memorable are the special effects in “Malignant” used to convey what may possibly be Lake’s descent into madness, trapped perhaps in a world with unimaginable horrors.

Lake witnesses the slayings take place as the walls around her dissolve and she is transported to the crime scenes, where she gets a front-row seat to the murderous mayhem she can’t stop.

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Lake begins “Malignant” as an expectant wife to an abusive husband. During the two-hour film, she will have to solve the mystery of who is the murderer and what is his connection to her.

Is Lake hallucinating? Is she in fact the killer’s accomplice? Is she a victim of his abuse? Or is she the perpetrator of the violent crimes she claims she sees carried out but is unable to stop?

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“Malignant” has been referred to as an American motion picture in the giallo genre, an Italian thriller-horror category that has mystery elements and often contains psychological horror, such as “Klute,” a 1971 film co-starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

Wan’s film is also reminiscent of the 2003 French slasher film “Haute Tension” or “High Tension,” another cult horror film memorable for its point-of-view plot twist like “Malignant.”

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The ending of “Malignant” is polarizing with some other movie critics praising the never-saw-it-coming reveal to others lambasting the original film for the chance it takes.

“Malignant” currently holds a 76% approval rating among critics and a 50% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television — an indication perhaps of how divided general moviegoers may find the third-act plot twist.

The RottenTomatoes.com critics consensus reads: “‘Malignant’ isn't particularly scary, director James Wan's return to horror contains plenty of gory thrills — and a memorably bonkers twist.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.