Maligno, by James Wan became a small hit in horror movies thanks to the fame that precedes its director. Also for his insistence on preserving the integrity of the script’s mystery at all costs. Even if that meant late screenings with no early criticism and unusual secrecy around the production. In the end, Wan’s goal was only one: to create a horror movie capable of exceeding expectations.
As one of the most recognized directors of the genre today, for Wan, Maligno is a small piece. Above all, jAlong with the scale of its successful franchises such as Saw, Insidious and Conjuring. But the horror movie is not intended to join those larger universes. Nor to build a story that can allow for more than an ingenious script exercise.
Despite his good intentions, Maligno must rtravel a difficult stretch to live up to Wan’s ambitions. The director, who this time tries to mix the supernatural with suspense, does not quite succeed. And while Malignant has a superb sense of rhythm and enjoys Wan’s ability to create atmospheres, he is a incomplete experiment.
Perhaps it is the director’s insistence on managing to hold a speech tailored to what appears to be a box of mysteries. From his first scenes, Wan makes it clear that this time the terror is not evident. And indeed you will cross tricky terrain through which you will have to face foreseeable stumbling blocks. After all, Maligno plays on a complicated board. Child trauma, the supernatural as a context, and fear that becomes a common thread are elements that Wan handles with ease.
But in Maligno all of them combine at the same time to build an inconsistent conception of the terrifying. The reason? Wan carries his usual formula of the subjective camera, the oppressive environment and the threat along blurred lines. The premise is in fact something so broad as to encompass several issues at once. What is fear and what causes it? What could cause us to witness a supernatural event?
‘Evil’, what is announced, the invisible and what is lurking
On this occasion, Wan uses the Cassandra myth and unfinished prophecies to support something more unique. Its protagonist is capable of seeing violent crimes, but his visions may or may not be true.
It also tries to open spaces and analyze the perception of what we believe or what is mere suggestion. But as the plot progresses it becomes apparent that Wan tried to build a varied series of topics without reaching any conclusion.
Maligno is powerful insofar as it is believable, but when Wan slows down and the film must sustain its own questions, it falters. And that’s when the perception of the strange, Fateful and inevitable is made uncomfortable by the mere fact of being predictable.
Maligno begins with a haunting look at a mental hospital, in which the duality of Wan’s speech is established. On this occasion the director seems obsessed with duplicity and double speeches. There is a condition about what might be real and what might not, which begins with this haunting vision of the fate of an invisible patient.
Wan plays with all the elements so that the plot advances from that premise. What is real and what is not in what is about to happen? The horror film then moves on with the story of Madison (Annabelle Wallis), pregnant, injured, and terrified.
But strangely enough, the construction of the character does not make her closer nor does it awaken any empathy. In fact, there are many dark spaces in this Madison that will survive tragedy after tragedy as the inexplicable surrounds it. Wan makes an interesting decision by turning the center of the plot into a multi-branching mystery.
After suffering an extremely violent assault in the domestic sphere, Madison begins to have visions. There is no real transition between the connotation of physical and brutal violence, towards the supernatural fact. But Wan makes the premise work through hauntingly realistic scenes.
The fear that hides in the shadows
Madison is an unwitting witness to increasingly bloody and bloody murders, evidently linked to the one she suffered. His mind becomes a sounding board, showing but not defining the spaces of horror that he can see. Or at least that’s what you think. The Maligno script makes careful decisions to make it clear that the perpetrator of the crimes can be anyone.
But Wan fails to construct a sufficiently effective version of the equivocal to make the tricky script enigmatic. In fact, by the second half, the horror movie becomes woefully predictable. There is a resemblance to the erratic tension in Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man as Madison clings to sanity with meager weapons. The police do not believe their predictions, making Madison’s visions a source of suspicion.
For his third act, Maligno plays all his cards and exhibits conscious performance of all the white dots he leaves behind. But despite that, Wan achieves, if not the surprise but with the effectiveness, create a satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps Maligno is not the director’s best film, but it is the most aware of his journey through cinematographic language to challenge the viewer. Whether or not he succeeds in doing so is the great unknown in this little mystery that is never fully resolved.