If you’ve watched Malignant and are wondering what in the world you just saw, you’re not alone: Just about everyone was left slack-jawed by that twist ending.
James Wan, the famed creator of Insidious and The Conjuring, doesn’t leave anything on the table in Malignant. While the entire film is bone-chilling, it’s in the last 30 minutes that all hell breaks loose — literally. And audiences can’t stop talking about it. Warning: spoilers and major plot points for Malignant are revealed below.
At the start of the film, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is pregnant and living with her husband Derek (Jake Abel) in the heart of Seattle. After a fight between the couple turns violent, with Derek bashing Madison’s head into a wall, she dreams that an unknown man breaks into their home and kills Derek — only to wake up and realize her husband has actually been murdered. The mysterious perpetrator, a shadowy force who calls himself “Gabriel,” proceeds to knock Madison unconscious. She wakes up in the hospital, and learns that she’s miscarried.
From that point on, Madison repeatedly experiences visions of murders as they happen, including the death of a someone named Dr. Florence Weaver, who audiences learn is connected to Gabriel. Decades earlier, Weaver studied a young Gabriel and his demonic powers at a psychiatric hospital — all of which was teased in the film’s prologue.
It’s around this point when Madison begins to learn the truth — and when the plot begins to mirror that of movies like Total Recall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and even My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Below, everything that happens in the last half-hour of Malignant.
Gabriel didn’t possess Madison at random...
During the police investigation, detectives find a photo of Madison at Dr. Weaver’s house. This is the first piece of evidence linking Gabriel and Madison. She eventually learns from her mother Jeanne (Susanna Thompson) that she was adopted, and often talked to “Gabriel” as a kid, as seen in old home movies. Madison now realizes that Gabriel wasn’t a figment of her childhood imagination.
…he’s actually Madison’s twin brother...
Madison learns that she was born Emily May, and Gabriel is her twin brother. The kicker is that Gabriel wasn’t fully autonomous — he was a partially-formed twin attached to Madison’s back like a tumor.
… and now lives inside Madison.
Audiences then learn why Madison’s picture was at Dr. Weaver’s house. Dr. Weaver specialized in child reconstructive surgery, and operated on Madison to remove Gabriel from her body. However, since the twins shared a brain, the doctors weren’t able to remove all of him, so they instead shoved what remained into her head. He remained idle for many years — until Derek shoved Madison and she hit her head, which triggered Gabriel’s awakening.
It’s also revealed that Gabriel caused Madison’s past miscarriages.
In Malignant’s hair-raising climax, Gabriel finally takes control of Madison’s body, and morphs onto the back of her head (think Lord Voldemort and Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). He controls her body backwards — crawling and moving in ways that are unintentionally comical — and goes on a killing spree. It’s around this point that Madison learns from her sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) that Gabriel is the root of Madison’s former miscarriages, as he needed another entity to feed on. Upon learning this, Madison’s anger causes her to overpower Gabriel, and she’s able to once again repress him in her mind.
Is this the end for Gabriel and Madison? Probably not — the film hints that Gabriel could return. As Madison says to her twin right as she extinguishes his power: “Next time, I’ll be ready for you.”