“Malignant” (Warner Bros.)

Annabelle Wallis stars in a scene from the movie "Malignant." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS/Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Catholic News Service

There’s a dreary feel to the early scenes of this horror tale from director James Wan and, though it later perks up to become creatively creepy, the initially somewhat restrained gore factor goes off the charts in a climactic rampage of slicing, dicing and dismemberment. After a mysterious intruder murders her abusive husband (Jake Abel) and attacks her, causing the latest in a series of miscarriages she has suffered, a troubled woman (Annabelle Wallis) inexplicably begins to witness other slayings by the same killer, being somehow transported, by means she can’t figure out, in a paralyzed trance state to the scene of each crime. Of the two detectives on the case, whose investigation she tries to help, one (George Young) is sympathetic, the other (Michole Briana White) skeptical.

While it succeeds in unsettling viewers, the film falls flat when it tries to establish any emotional context, as with the relationship between the protagonist and her understandably concerned sister (Maddie Hasson). And some of the would-be serious dialogue in Akela Cooper’s script is risible. But the unintended laughs give way to queasiness as the body toll, exacted in ever more hideous ways, steadily mounts.

Excessive gruesome violence, about a half-dozen instances each of profanity and milder swearing, much rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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