Before he was a bankable director of Hollywood blockbusters in franchises such as The Fast & The Furious and Aquaman, James Wan made his way in the industry as one of the 21st century’s most generally successful horror auteurs. Between Saw, Insidious and especially The Conjuring, Wan had a hand in creating several of the most important horror franchises of the last few decades, and each series benefitting from his trippy visual style and flair for the morbidly beautiful. Now, the director is returning to the genre where he made his name, with the upcoming feature Malignant headed to HBO Max, due to arrive on Sept. 10, 2021. The film released its first trailer today, feeling like a project that perhaps sees Wan catching a breath and recharging his batteries before the upcoming Aquaman sequel.
Wan had previously referred to Malignant as something of a tribute to the Italian giallo genre of psychological thrillers/horror movies, but the trailer below doesn’t necessarily evoke a ton of those influences. There are some moments where the color schemes might make one briefly think of influential giallo directors such as Mario Bava or Dario Argento, but the meat and potatoes of this story seems much closer to the supernatural, metaphysical horror stories seen in the Insidious series in particular. Certainly, it doesn’t have nearly as many giallo or Roman Polanski-esque references as the still-recent trailer for Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. It would seem that Wan has perhaps not strayed too far from his previous successes, which wouldn’t really surprise us—it also probably means the film will have a large audience on release.
Malignant stars Annabelle Wallis as Madison, a woman who begins to have a series of terrifying visions as she sleeps, witnessing real-life murders as they occur. This requires her to dig into her own past, uncovering buried childhood memories of a figure called “Gabriel,” who the trailer helpfully refers to as “the devil.” Given the film’s title, however, we’re bracing ourselves for a plot twist involving some sort of evil, cancerous growth or an unabsorbed fraternal twin whose consciousness is still embedded in this woman’s body decades later. “Malignant” can’t help but feel like an important clue.
The film arrives on HBO Max in September as part of the year-long move to exhibit all Warner Bros. films on HBO Max, so subscribers won’t have to leave the comfort of their couches to check out Wan’s latest. Watch the first trailer for Malignant below.