[This piece discusses spoilers from Malignant that—if you’re curious about the movie—are a lot more fun to discover for yourself.]
There’s a moment near the end of James Wan’s Malignant when Gabriel, the shadowy killer we’ve been following throughout the story so far, is fully revealed. Within seconds of seeing him appear, it’s clear that the movie’s created one of the best horror villains in years—a freakish little practical delight on par with “opening your miiiind” to Total Recall’s mucosal chest-baby, Kuato.
Wan and story co-writer/cast member Ingrid Bisu spoke to Bloody Disgusting about how Gabriel was created and how his scenes, when he’s both in and out of control of his dear sister Madison, were filmed.
The idea for Gabriel came from Bisu’s interest in documentaries about “medical anomalies, twins, parasitic twins, [and] teratomas.” After discovering the story of a man who “had a smaller head in the back of his head” that “would torture him or give him horrible thoughts and ideas,” Bisu went on to look into the subject of parasitic twins and ended up with Gabriel and the story idea she worked on with Wan and screenwriter/fellow story co-writer Akela Cooper.
Wan says the skull-bursting version of Gabriel was achieved with animatronics but, instead of having to reverse the film to create scenes where the twin’s assumed control of Madison’s body, the backwards moving effect was created by performers like contortionists Marina Mazepa and “Twisty” Troy James.
“Whenever Gabriel comes out of Madison and possesses her, it’s a combination of a bunch of people,” Wan says. “First Annabelle Wallis’ performances [as the regular Madison], then we switched to Marina ... [who] would wear an Annabelle Wallis mask on her face, and she would have an animatronic Gabriel in the back of her head [and] she would play out a lot of her scenes just backward, literally backward.”
James also twisted himself around to play Madison/Gabriel “in crucial scenes, like the murder of Madison’s husband, Derek.” Wan says the pair of contortionists “blew my mind” and “made our vision come to life” in ways he and Bisu could barely imagine when they would try to play-act the backward movement during the writing process.
Read the rest of the interview over at Bloody Disgusting.
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