As the Awards Radar Community is already well aware of, I loves me some Malignant. Probably the most fun – not the most moving or beautiful or intellectually stimulating, but absolutely the most fun – I’ve had watching a movie all year. I want more horror movies as weird and in delightfully poor taste as James Wan’s psychotic “this is what I want to spend my Aquaman capital on” film. So you’d think I would be hopping with excitement over the reveal from star Annabelle Wallis that a sequel might happen in a recent interview she gave to Screen Rant:
“There’s plenty of ideas swirling around. We were very, very flattered by the reception and I think taken aback by the reception …There’s lots of conversations happening.”
And I am! Kinda… maybe… not really, though? Not going to try to act above-it-all; I would totally watch Malignant 2 as soon as it was available on HBO Max or in theaters. So I guess if their goal was to get more money or views for their streaming service algorithm out of me personally, they already succeeded. Feel free to call me a sucker in the comments.
But oddly, I was almost sort of heartened by the failing-to-break-even box office pull and unverifiable HBO Max numbers, and harbored this assumption that it must have lost money and will go down in history as Wan’s expensive weird passion project that Warner Bros reluctantly greenlit just to make him happy and onboard for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Then it could just be itself; this freaky little one-off, a hidden gem in the B-movie pantheon that I could tell my friends about years later: “Oh my god, you’ve never heard of Malignant? It’s amazing, let’s break out the hard liquor and watch it!”
Because what made it so cool was that it came out of nowhere. His last horror movie was The Conjuring 2, a very well-executed but ultimately pretty standard haunted house-style movie. The trailer for the film was pretty dull, and I didn’t even bother covering it in my September Preview article because I didn’t think it would be much of a noteworthy release. Films like Malignant aren’t just films; they’re surprise parties. They’re sucker punches. They make you go “oh my god where the hell did that come from???”
So you see the inherent problem with trying to tack a sequel on to that kind of phenomenon, right? There’s nothing to conceal, anymore. Nothing to surprise us with. No expectations left to subvert. We’ve seen Gabriel’s red squishy face and weird backwards movements and petty bitch chair throwing. For like, half-an-hour in its full glory in the climax. I don’t know if seeing another two hours of that is going to be all that fun. We’re getting into “too much of a good thing” territory with that.
When I think about other similarly deranged, darkly funny horror movies that became cult classics, like Basket Case or Ginger Snaps, I think of films that knew not to overstay their welcome. They got in, shocked you, made you laugh, and then… “gracefully” is not the right word, but exited on a high note so could catch your breath and laugh about it with your friends later. Did you know they made a sequel to both of those movies? They’re both… fine. They both dial up the nasty humor and shocking imagery of their predecessors because what else can you do besides the same gnarly tone and story beats, but “more?” Neither of them are terrible, but they’re not really interesting, either. We know what to expect the second time around. We’re not unprepared for the craziness.
So while I’d be curious to see what could be in store for a follow-up, a part of me also sort of wants it to fall apart the way proposed sequels for The Wicker Man and Bubba Ho-Tep never worked out. Maybe they would have been worthy sequels but they probably would have been disappointing rehashes; an attempt to capture the bizarre lighting-in-a-bottle alchemy of the original a second time without the novelty attached. Because there was no part two, The Wicker Man remains this perfect little island all its own; a self-contained story that will surprise and freak out future generations and doesn’t go past its shocking twist and terrifying ending (let’s just… forget about the remake right now).
That’s where I am right now with these – very early and noncommittal, let’s be clear – conversations. Maybe they’ll materialize into a full sequel, and maybe they won’t… and right now I sort of hope they don’t. I’m perfectly okay with Gabriel’s red squishy face staying inside Madison’s skull, and would much rather see James Wan shock me in a new way in the future.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see another Malignant, and what they could do to continue the story in a satisfying way.