You know the old saying, “everything they touch turns to gold?”
Well, in the case of James Wan, it’s more that everything he touches turns into a franchise. Well, almost everything.
The Australian filmmaker is known for helming the first and subsequent installments of three of the most popular horror franchises of this century. In 2004 he made waves with his directorial feature debut Saw and would later knock out Insidious and The Conjuring.
He’s a juggernaut of the genre, while also having gone on to direct major blockbusters such as Furious 7 and Aquaman.
After achieving great success with Jason Momoa’s DCEU solo vehicle, horror fans were thrilled to learn that he was dipping his toes back into the beloved genre with an exciting and original vision.
You could argue that it’s his wildest movie to date, and one that raises some big questions. So, acknowledging the biggest, let’s ask… who is Gabriel in Malignant?
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF MALIGNANT
Who is Gabriel in Malignant?
The movie begins with a flashback to 1993 in which we see Dr. Florence Weaver and her colleagues – Victor Fields and John Gregory – attempting to treat a psychiatric patient called Gabriel.
It’s established that he has unique powers, able to manipulate electricity and broadcast his thoughts through the speakers.
As the narrative progresses, we’re led to believe that our protagonist, Madison, is linked to this mysterious being that plagues her in some way. A psychiatric hypnotherapist is tasked with helping Madison unlock important memories and she remembers her birth name – Emily May – and that Gabriel wanted to kill her unborn sister.
In a turn of events, we discover that Gabriel has actually been living inside of Madison’s home; he had Madison’s birth mother, Serena May, kidnapped in the attic.
The film’s big reveal, on the other hand, emerges after Sydney retrieves her adopted sister’s file from the now-closed Simion hospital. As she and Madison’s adopted mother watch the old tapes, they witness horrifying footage that reveals Gabriel is Madison’s twin.
However, he actually exists inside of her body. This incredibly severe case of a “teratoma” means that they share the same brain. So, when Gabriel is committing the murders, he takes over and deceives Madison into believing she is living out her own life in the meantime.
As for why he was dormant for so long, the doctors performed an operation on her as a child to cut out the tumor. Not being able to remove Gabriel completely, they sewed what was left of him into her brain.
He was awakened in the first act of the film when Madison’s partner smacked her head into the wall.
Does the ending set up a sequel?
Yes, because although Madison has trapped Gabriel in a mental mindscape, she acknowledges that she’ll be ready when he inevitably manages to escape.
The final shot sees a light bulb in the corner of the room flickering and it’s suggested that this could be Gabriel still able to harness his powers, building up strength.
As of yet, no sequel has officially been announced but the door is surely wide open nevertheless.
“It was a challenge”
While in conversation with Sci-Fi Now, James Wan opened up about the creation of Gabriel and the challenges that the character’s initial ambiguity posed:
“Gabriel is a bit of an enigma character in Madison’s life. I wanted to create a character who you’re not quite sure if he or she is necessarily real, like a real person. Is it an imaginary friend, is it a ghost, or is it the devil? I had to find a way to hide its form.”
He added: “… It was a challenge to work out how to create something with a strong presence but yet you can’t really see it most of the time. A lot of the time, he’s just described in the script as a silhouette, a shape, a shadow. When it comes time to shoot it, you don’t quite know what that represents.”
In other news, What is Polonium 204, the Poison Used in Netflix's Kate?