The Conjuring and Saw director James Wan’s latest is a curious combination of plodding thriller and spectacular body horror What’s scarier: bearing witness to a murder through the killer’s point of view or the victim’s? There’s no wrong answer, the point of the question being that the creepy complicity of spectatorship can be just as chilling as the terror of immediate danger. The first half of Malignant, James Wan’s latest bid at spawning another horror franchise of unholy profitability, enacts an exercise seemingly designed to test both sides of that equation. For hopeful mother Madison (Annabelle Wallis, a familiar face in the Wan-verse for her role in 2014’s Annabelle, no relation), the latest in a discouraging series of miscarriages has come with an unsettling side-effect. She’s been plagued by vivid dreams in which she stands by as a rangy-looking figure massacres strangers, visions which soon reveal themselves to be glimpses of actual events. Though our protagonist isn’t the one meeting her maker, she’s nonetheless disturbed by her unwilling part in the process, and we’re supposed to feel the same.
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