Malevolent (2018)


“I’m Not Alone”

Main Cast: Florence Pugh, Ben Lloyd-Hughes

Director: Olaf de Fleur Johannesson

It’s the 1980s and American siblings Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes, DIVERGENT) and Angela (Florence Pugh, MIDSOMMAR) are in Britain running a paranormal investigator scam to help Jackson pay back some loan shark debts.  With their friend Elliot (Scott Chambers, FOX TRAP) and Jackson’s girlfriend Beth (Georgina Bevan, JULIET, NAKED), the team plays on the reputation of their deceased mother, a medium who died by suicide years earlier.  Beth wanders the places they’ve been hired to investigate while Elliot films her.  Back at command central, Jackson cues Beth on when to activate the various vocal effects to convince whoever hired them that Beth is really in contact with a spirit.  Beth pleads with the “spirit” to vacate the premises, the team collects their pay, Bob’s your uncle and “This house is clean.”

Only on their last gig, right at the end, Angela’s pretty sure she actually saw a spirit for real.  So when Mrs. Greene contacts them, hoping they can “stop the girls from screaming,” Angela wants to refuse the job, but Jackson needs the money or “they’re gonna take his thumbs.”

Jackson convinces Angela to take the job, so Angela does some research into the place and discovers that, fifteen years earlier, Mrs. Greene’s three foster daughters were all found with their mouths sewn shut and the only suspect was Mrs. Greene’s son, Herman.

The team travels to the estate where Mrs. Green lives and begins to set up their scam.  Only Angela’s been seeing things lately, and this ain’t no made-up spook show.  She thinks—fears—this might be the real deal.

My first impression of MALEVOLENT probably wasn’t the best.  I did find it very atmospheric, and it had a good handful—small though that hand was—of creepy scenes that made me glad my wife would be home before I went to bed.

The cast was okay, I guess.  I don’t know Bevan or Chambers from anything, and Bevan at least had such a small role as to be barely in the movie. Chambers played Elliot’s crush on Angela a bit desperate, but it’s very likely it was written that way.  Lloyd-Hughes made Jackson just a bit too unlikable, but that also is, I’m sure, the way he was meant to be portrayed, so he did his job.  Florence Pugh, however … I first came across her in MIDSOMMAR and anyone who’s seen that knows she holds nothing back.  In everything I’ve seen her in since (okay, the Marvel titles I’ve seen her in), she’s easily the one who steals every scene she’s in, and things are no different here.  She plays Angela as the reluctant one, not happy about the job they’ve made for themselves, but she wants to help her brother, and it sure beats working in a hot dog factory.

I do find it odd when they cast British actors to play American roles in Britain, as with Lloyd-Hughes and Pugh, but it is what it is, I guess.

MALEVOLENT was written by Ben Ketai (THE STRANGERS: Prey at Night) from the novel HUSH by Eva Konstantopoulos with direction by Olaf de Fleur Johannesson (who hasn’t directed anything I’ve ever heard of, so let’s just go with 2014’s BRAVE MEN’S BLOOD).

The script was well-constructed, and Johannesson knows his way around a dark and creepy mansion.  He is able to build tension and tell a solid story through his camera work, without needing ten pages of exposition, and just trusting the actors to carry the scene.

Overall I ended up enjoying this movie for what it was.  However, that’s not to say it is without flaw.

For one, it takes way too long to get going.  And once it does get going … I was watching a horror movie about ghosts.  Most days that’s all I need, but you know sometimes it would be nice if the ghost story TRIED to be scary.

Yes, I said Johannesson showed me a few things that made me not want to go to bed alone that night, but that’s not the same as leaving me scared to get off the couch.  And it’s been so long since I’ve had a good, honest to God SCARY movie … I hoped from the trailer and the description this might be it, but in the end, when you look at the “scary stuff” vs. the “not scary stuff” that ratio is WAY off in favor of the not scary stuff.

MALEVOLENT was a pretty good, pretty well-made and effective horror movie.  It just wasn’t a SCARY horror movie.  Creepy for sure, but those creeps were too few and far between to really count toward much.

Having said all that I’ve been watching horror movies for, literally, almost all of my 50 years, so I’m well past jaded when it comes to horror movies.  If you’re a casual fan, or you want to try to get your normie friend to watch a horror movie, this one just might do the trick.  It’s certainly got better production quality than many other random horror movies, and it definitely will suck you in.  My wife came home from her work dinner last night with 20 minutes left of the movie, complaining about how the dress she’d worn was itchy against her back.  But she watched three seconds of this movie and wound up sitting on the couch, the itchy dress forgotten in favor of what was on screen.  I think that says volumes for ANY movie.

In the end, I feel I can recommend MALEVOLENT.  Pugh gives it her all, and thanks to the script and the direction, she’s got plenty to work with.  I just wish it had been more full steam ahead on the horror.  I feel there were a lot of missed opportunities in that area, opportunities James Wan would have taken full advantage of, but what we got in exchange wasn’t too bad.

MALEVOLENT is currently streaming on Netflix.

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