There's no one there! It's all in your...head!

Malignant is a stupidly great movie — one that gets even more stupid and even more great every time you watch it.

In theaters and streaming on HBO Max thru Oct. 10, the frightful new flick from director-producer James Wan set the horror-loving world ablaze with its absurd narrative and fearless execution. At first, the hellish journey of Madison Miller (Annabelle Wallis) seemed to prospective viewers like your average possession plot, akin to past Wan works like The Conjuring or Insidious.

But as anyone who’s actually witnessed Malignant’s utterly unhinged contents can tell you, this movie is unlike anything you’ve seen before or will see again — sequel notwithstanding. Concocted by Wan, executive producer Ingrid Bisu, and screenwriter Akela Cooper, Malignant’s outrageous story is better left unspoiled. So if you’re gearing up for an inaugural watch, cease reading immediately. But if you’ve leveled up from newbie viewer to veteran obsessive, carry on.

Here are 6 incredible hidden details in Malignant you almost definitely missed the first time, but should absolutely double-back to find. (Get it? “Double-back”? He he.)

1. The opening credits reveal almost the entire plot

Wow, they really just come out and say it.

Wow, they really just come out and say it.
Credit: screenshot: Warner bros.

For a movie whose biggest selling point is its twisty-turny plot, Malignant takes a massive risk in its first 5 minutes.

After that combat-laden flashback at Simion Research Hospital, which intros the movie and its slasher villain, pay attention to the opening credits. Behind the names and titles, you’ll see medical documents detailing the plot’s biggest reveal: That homicidal maniac Gabriel (voiced by Ray Chase) is actually Madison’s parasitic twin, nestled at the base of her neck and slowly taking over her body. Seriously, they just come out and say it.

Not only are there diagrams detailing the anatomy which physically connects Gabriel and Madison, but there are also documents and medical charts explaining their birth and some of their early childhood treatment. What’s more, it’s intercut with footage of their ghastly separation, which we learn more about from Gabriel later in the film.

The images go by fast enough that it’s not likely to spoil anyone on their first watch, but knowing the ending you’ll be surprised how boldly Malignant announces its plans in the first act. No “time to cut out the cancer” like the present, I guess?

2. Gabriel hijacks Madison’s brain for two full days in the beginning

Madison's not home, detective.

Madison’s not home, detective.
Credit: SCREENSHOT: WARNER BROS.

Shortly after Gabriel kills Madison’s POS husband Derek (Jake Abel), she’s admitted to the hospital. When Detective Kekoa Shaw (George Young) comes to interview her about the attack, however, Madison won’t speak to — or even look at — him. Madison’s adopted sister Sydney (Maddie Hasson) says she’s “been like this for two days,” rationalizing the bizarre behavior as a consequence of grief and shock from Madison losing her husband and unborn child.

It’s later explained that Gabriel is capable of controlling Madison with intense hallucinations. And although it’s never stated explicitly, that’s almost definitely what’s happening to her here. As we see in later scenes, this particularly sinister power of Gabriel’s leaves Madison’s physical body in a kind of zoned-out trance, providing him the opportunity to puppet her limbs while she’s somewhere else.

Was whatever he made Madison see here part of his scheme to kidnap their birth mother Serena May (Jean Louisa Kelly) and sneak her into Madison’s attic? Or was it something…else?

3. Madison actually says the twist, early and more than once

Oooooh, I see you what you mean now.

Oooooh, I see you what you mean now.
Credit: SCREENSHOT: WARNER BROS.



Sure, we know Gabriel isn’t Madison’s imaginary friend now. But the illusion that he might be lets Madison get away with bluntly saying Malignant‘s most juicy reveal multiple times throughout the film. Finding these metaphors-turned-Easter eggs is fun to do on your own, but if you’re looking for just one: The most notable instance happens around 25 minutes in, after Madison has a scare with a bunch of flickering lights and freaky noises.

“There’s no one there,” she assures herself, through shaky breath. “It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head.” It sure is, sister! Right there, chilling at the back of your skull.

4. Gabriel uses his hands and feet backwards

To think, I mistook his twisty-grabby gestures for dramatics.

To think, I mistook his twisty-grabby gestures for dramatics.
Credit: SCREENSHOT: WARNER BROS.

Gabriel looks strange from the start, but it’ll take freeze-framing a few key scenes to appreciate the weirdest thing about him: He uses his hands and feet backwards.

Because Gabriel can’t use Madison’s eyes (again, she’s in that trance) and his are located on the back of her head, the walking-talking-murdering teratoma twists his body to see and strike simultaneously. His thumbs and toes are often oriented the opposite way he’s looking, as a result, making everything about him just a little extra off.

You can see the most clear instance of Gabriel’s hands going the wrong direction in the scene where he bludgeons Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie); specifically, the moment when he grabs the trophy from the table. And you can see the best instance of Gabriel’s feet going the wrong direction when he stabs Dr. Victor Fields (Christian Clemenson) in bed. Yes, it’s bloody, but also extremely cool!

I *almost* feel silly missing this one.

I *almost* feel silly missing this one.
Credit: screenshot: warner bros.

5. He even walks backwards when he has to

Via Giphy

It’s not until Gabriel goes full Blade in that jail cell that we’re given the chance to fully appreciate just how unusual his movements are. But keep an eye on those backwards hands and feet throughout the film and you’ll catch some seriously impressive work from Marina Mazepa, the contortionist who acts as Gabriel’s body.

You can catch a great example of Mazepa nailing this tricky balance as Gabriel flees the scene of Dr. John Gregory’s murder (Amir AboulEla). Right as Gabriel rounds the corner outside of Gregory’s apartment, he starts sprinting our backwards/his forwards — but it’s so seamless you won’t catch it the first go-around. Then, Mazepa sticks some incredible stunts on the fire escape well worth watching at half-speed. (Look closely at the end of this scene and you’ll also get a glimpse of Madison’s face on the back/front of Gabriel’s head!)

6. Malignant‘s signature weapon appears in the very first shot

Oh, Florence. This doesn't end well for you.

Oh, Florence. This doesn’t end well for you.
Credit: screenshot: Warner bros.

Wan does a hell of a job building a slasher icon out of Gabriel; and Gabriel’s weapon — a gold surgical statue that’s been modified into an ornate dagger — is no small part of that. In fact, it’s so central to Gabriel’s and consequently Malignant‘s identity that it appears in the very first shot.

Sneak a glance past Dr. Weaver in her introductory video diary about Gabriel and you’ll see the still intact statue proudly displayed in her office. Yikes!

Malignant is in theaters and streaming with the HBO Max ad-free plan.

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