REVIEW: “Malevolent” (2018)

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In the new Netflix Original “Malevolent” siblings Angela (Florence Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) own and operate Sayers Medium Service. It’s basically a paranormal racket where they dupe grieving clients into believing they can communicate with their loved ones or in some cases drive out their ghosts. I bet you can already see where this is going.

The story is set in 1986 Glasgow. I’m not really sure about the significance of 1986 other than it conveniently rules out cellphones and it forces the twenty-something hucksters to use older (and potentially spookier) recording equipment when pulling off their ruse. Regardless, Angela is contacted by Mrs. Green (a very good Celia Imrie) who lives in a creepy old foster home she once ran. Mrs. Green claims ghosts of the little girls haunt the home and she desperately wants them silenced.

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Angela turns down the job as she is growing more and more uncomfortable with their scam. After a little haggling over some old family baggage, Jackson calls Mrs. Green back and promptly accepts. Turns out he owes money to some pretty bad dudes and is in quick need of some cash. Along with their cameraman Elliot (Scott Chambers) and equipment operator Beth (Georgina Bevan) the siblings head to Mrs. Green’s remote and fittingly spooky place.

To no viewer’s surprise there is something freaky going on at Mrs. Green’s foster home. Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur leans on a handful of conventional horror tropes but wisely he never fully relies on them. Instead he toys with us about what we are seeing. Is it psychological or in fact ghostly? That question lingers until the macabre final act that feels slightly at odds tonally but admittedly fun and satisfying.

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Another strength is Pugh’s performance. She is the film’s emotional center and asked to carry that load throughout the movie. She’s an impressive young actress as evident by her work in 2016’s highly acclaimed “Lady Macbeth”. Here the camera puts a lot of its focus on her. The material doesn’t allow for a particularly dynamic performance but she is still consistently good.

While “Malevolent” does a lot of things right I still wouldn’t call it a game-changer or even particularly fresh. But several smart decisions turns it into a surprisingly effective genre movie. And in a day when really bad horror movies are churned out by the dozens, “Malevolent” does stand out. So perhaps it’s a little bit fresher than I’m giving it credit for.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

3-5-stars

16 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Malevolent” (2018)

  1. Not going to lie, this threw me a bit. I was thinking, wait a minute, wasn’t this with Angelina Jolie and released a couple years ago now? But ahh, yes, that was Maleficent. Lol

    This sounds good enough for me to add to my queue. Thanks Keith.

  2. I think that’s going to be the case with a lot of films. Modern technology doesn’t work well for plot devices. Big fan of Florence Pugh. She’s amazing in Lady Macbeth and Drummer Girl.

  3. I’ve seen Florence Pugh in Lady Macbeth as she is incredible as I’m looking forward to what else she’s doing except for that movie about the wrestler Paige as I know the real story and the trailer just makes it a very typical film featuring an unnecessary cameo from the Crock.

      • I’m all for the attention Pugh is getting but I wish it was in a better film. Not from WWE as that’s a company I wish was dead. Hell, I’m people are still alive from that shitfest that was RAW last Monday. Some said it was the worst episode of Monday Night RAW ever as I’m just glad I stopped watching WWE four years ago. Plus, I really think the Crock is a piece of shit. He comes in smiling like a jackass, doing his pec-pops, and such yet months ago in a tweet. He praised a dead wrestler who is known for being a notorious sex trafficker and pimp and all sorts of ugly shit.

  4. Netflix keeps suggesting this to me and I always go past it. I might eventually give it a shot after reading this though, Florence is great.

  5. I usually agree with your excellent reviews but this was a very average “horror” film. Florence Pugh is, as always, excellent but the character of the brother was so uncharismatic and unlikeable he just ruined what was already a really slim story. I get that was the point as he was the antagonist but he was so irritating. It took way too long to get to the haunted house and then not a lot happened from a scare perspective.

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