Warning: The Following Contains Spoilers For Malignant
James Wan’s newest film contains little paranormal investigation taking place like in his previous successes Insidious and The Conjuring. One thing that remains is there’s still a very intense focus on character development in Malignant. And so far, fans are enjoying the film–it holds a 74% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In this movie, the majority of the audience’s time is spent with Madison Lake-Mitchell as she tries to find out the secret behind a voice in her head. All is not how it seems, however, and there’s more to Madison than meets the eye. Surrounding Madison are various individuals who contribute various levels of support to her plight, and here’s how they rank up against each other.
7 Derek Mitchell
Sydney Lake summarizes Derek (Jake Abel) fairly well when conversing with her sister. She states how no one deserves to die “like that,” yet also refers to him with utter disdain. Derek Mitchell was extremely abusive–the type who consistently claims he’s on the cusp of change. Some behavior is seldom changed, however, and is only intensified. When Derek Mitchell slams his wife’s head back against the wall, not only does he seal himself as the film’s most contemptible character, but also sets the narrative into motion. The latter point is the only one for which Derek should receive any credit.
6 Detective Kekoa Shaw
Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) doesn’t make much of an impression despite being a huge part of the narrative. However, he has a kind presence and does seem to truly care about Madison’s troubles.
As a police officer, Kekoa Shaw frequently lacks even common sense. He chases Gabriel in a long set-piece, going so far as to come close enough to smell Gabriel’s breath. Yet, even with this up close and personal impromptu rendezvous, he fails to immediately put together the pieces. Part of this, however, is his infatuation with Sydney Lake.
5 Serena May / “Jane Doe”
Jane Doe (Jean Louisa Kelly) is seen being held in an attic for a good portion of the film’s first two acts. The key to her success as a character is her literal fall. Plummeting through the floorboards of Emily May’s second floor, “Jane Doe” only has her identity revealed later on.
Jane Doe is initially shown as a guide running the Seattle Underground Tour. The audience is led to believe she’s a casualty only briefly before they’re shown her flung up against a wooden post in the aforementioned dark attic. When she falls through Madison’s floor, it’s no random house. Gabriel put Jane Doe up there because she is actually Serena May: Madison/Emily and Gabriel’s mother.
4 Dr. Florence Weaver
Jacqueline McKenzie’s Dr. Weaver is partially responsible for the carnage, but she’s also an altruist. Unfortunately, like her colleagues, Dr. Weaver meets a rather grisly end. In fact, if James Wan movies were ranked by gore-factor, Malignant would probably tie with Saw.
Weaver has a couple of big scenes in the film and consistently moves the plot forward. She’s in the first scene, where the then-mysterious Gabriel is severed from someone. She gets major credit for her bravery in the opening scene (even if her opening Gabriel’s cell door was unwise). After Gabriel slaughters several staff members of Simion Research Hospital
3 Detective Regina Moss
Bolstered by a fun performance from Michole Briana White, Detective Regina Moss certainly makes the larger impression between the two main cop characters. She’s sly, funny, and doesn’t hesitate on calling out her partner for not thinking with his full brain.
Unlike her partner Detective Shaw, she is not blinded by a potential romance with one of the two sisters. She sees right through Madison, even though Madison is not technically lying. She goes along for the ride of finding out Gabriel’s identity, but she’s never quite sold. It’s not until a light-shattering interrogation that she realizes something’s up. Even still, she retains her professionalism without losing her sense of humor.
2 Sydney Lake
If there’s a heart and soul to this dark film, it’s Maddie Hasson’s Sydney Lake. Almost the best character in the film, Sydney Lake feels like the most relatable and realistic character in the film.
Furthermore, Sydney Lake is imbued with a surplus of agency. Were she not proactive enough to investigate the Simion Research Hospital, Gabriel’s identity would never be known. Sydney isn’t just a shoulder to cry on; she’s a fighter and a wonderful person to have in one’s corner.
1 Emily May / Madison “Maddie” Lake-Mitchell
Annabelle Wallis’ lead character in Malignant is complex, to say the least. Initially terrorized by an unknown entity as Madison Lake-Mitchell, in time far more is known than what is shown in Malignant‘s scary movie trailer. While most of her past has been forgotten, a psychologist helps unlock Madison/Emily’s suppressed memories. When she was a child, Gabriel communicated with her much the way he does now. Then, he told her to take a knife to her mother, thusly killing her unborn child. Gabriel himself is no imaginary friend or repressed personality, but rather a literal part of May. He’s her conjoined twin brother (technically, more like a tumor). When Derek Mitchell pushed Madison’s head back against the wall, he unlocked something within her, effectively releasing Gabriel. Even with the other horror movies coming out in 2021, Emily will probably be one of the year’s most memorable horror characters.
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