FULL SPOILERS FOR A RECENTLY RELEASED FILM
Look, I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much. This blog already is a bit of an ego trip, but I’m just a normal guy. I put my pants on one trite quote at a time. However, after hearing that the twist in Malignant was supposed to be completely surprising, I figured it out in something like 20 minutes. What, like it’s hard?
Full spoilers ahead, so this is your chance to back out in case you want to see the movie for yourself. It’s not super scary, but was fun with a pretty unique twist.
Lemme show you my thought processes as I summarize the film. Malignant opens with a flashback to hospital staff trying to contain a supernatural evil named Gabriel, who we see only in silhouette and is apparently gross. The lead doctor looks straight at the camera and says that it’s time to cut out the cancer. We then jump to the present and follow Madison (Ms. Annabelle Wallis, AKA Jenny from 2017’s The Mummy). She’s an abused and pregnant wife, but things change when her husband pushes her hard enough that she cracks the back of her head on the wall. He’s then murdered by some supernatural humanoid, and she miscarries for something like the third time.
So the obvious twist at this point was “Madison is actually Gabriel, and the blow to the head unlocked a deeply buried personality.” But that’s kind of mundane, at least for a horror movie. This film’s twist was hyped up to hell so it shouldn’t have been something as relatively simple as “she was the killer all along.” So I wasn’t comfortable betting money on it.
Back to the movie, Gabriel abducts a seemingly random woman and then kills one of the doctors we saw in the flashback, mockingly telling her that he’s going to show her what the cancer she cut out has become. It’s repeated enough that it clearly means something. Throw in that the title Malignant is often used to describe aggressive cancers and some crazy ideas were starting to come together. The doctor specializing in reconstructive surgeries just added to my theory: Gabriel was a parasitic twin that was supposed to be removed and killed years ago. By this point I was thinking something along the lines of Cassandra Nova from X-Men, a sort of twin of Professor Xavier’s who he killed in the womb, but she survived and grew herself in the sewers until she was ready to destroy everything he loved (comics are dumb). Didn’t really explain the psychic connection Gabriel had with Madison–him being able to show her his killings–but it things were pointing in that direction.
Madison goes to the cops and of course they don’t believe that her imaginary friend when she was a child is murdering people. Except she keeps seeing Gabriel killing, even leading the cops to a body before anyone had reported it. Lead cop Kekoa Shaw (George Young) figures out what the audience deduced ages ago: that the doctors being killed were in charge of Madison decades ago, during a period of her life she doesn’t remember before being adopted by Moira Queen from Arrow. This deduction leads him to very recently killed body, kicking off a chase sequence with Gabriel. It was during this point that I noticed that Gabriel’s body was backwards, as if his head had been turned 180 degrees and he was doing his best to soldier on (shoutout to my friends who picked up that detail way before I did). We also get a clearer shot at his mangled, meaty face and it sure looks like it’s flat, almost like it’s…
…oh. OH! Shit, I was right all along! Gabriel is Madison, kind of–more specifically, he’s a sentient tumor growing on the back of her head. Think Professor Quirrell and Voldemort from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Turns out Gabriel was more of a teratoma than a conjoined twin, growing out of Madison’s back and sharing a brain with her. Do you remember Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding talking about her lump/twin? Along those lines, but bigger and eviler. His evil tendencies, ability to force his thoughts into Madison’s head, and supernatural powers (which are never explained beyond he may be the Devil) forced doctors to remove most of him, forcing what they couldn’t cut out into Madison’s skull. The same skull her husband cracked at the beginning, awakening the beast! It all climaxes with Gabriel completely taking over Madison’s body and going to kill the abducted woman, who was their birth mother. Madison regains control when it’s pointed out that all of her miscarriages were most likely Gabriel’s fault. Turns out everything he can do, she can do as well, so Gabriel is locked away in a mind prison. But standard horror movie tease suggests he’ll eventually break out. And the movie’s not even touching the dozens of people Gabriel killed and the impending legal battle trying to argue Madison isn’t responsible.
Beyond “the twist ending will blow your mind,” the only other things I knew about the film ahead of time was that it was fun but not really scary. Yeah, that tracks. I kept saying the soundtrack was my jam, then it turns out one of my favorite artists, Celldweller, was responsible for the techno beats. At no point was I on the edge of my seat, and seeing Madison’s skull crack open and Gabriel’s mutilated face–complete with teeth–pop out was kind of silly, but it wasn’t a bad movie. I don’t think I’ve seen anything writer/director James Wan has done that was bad? I’m sure some would argue Furious 7 was dumb, but I’d say to them, “I know! Wasn’t it great?”
I can’t say with any confidence that I would’ve figured things out if they twist hadn’t been so hyped. It honestly never occurred to me that Malignant is a weird word to describe some supernatural evil entity until Gabriel kept saying he was the cancer that survived. A little on the nose, but it’s a great thing for people to look back on once their minds are blown. And there are plenty of movies that surprise me, so I’m not jaded or trying to boast. I like to think this is a situation where if I can do it, so can you. The next time you watch a movie, ask yourself, how many times have you heard a character say that dramatic and clichéd response to an equally clichéd line? How many movies had the same twist, and how did they drop hints before the reveal? Isn’t this a situation where a bunch of other movies would place a jump scare? Try it at home! Impress your friends and family! Become an obnoxious person obsessed with movies!
…wait, maybe not that last one.
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