Easily an upgrade on the abysmal Open House, Netflix’s latest horror Original still continues to set its own bar fairly low.
Malevolent tells the story of American brother and sister Jackson and Angela (Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Florence Pugh) picking up the pieces in Glasgow after their mother’s suicide. Students by day, they run a ghost-cleansing business on the side. Said business is shamelessly fraudulent until a sighting suddenly awakens in Angela a power with side effects not dissimilar to her mother’s mental degradation.
Add to the mix a client whose home has a gruesome history, and some bittersweet family drama, and you’d think you’d have the makings of a multi-layered chiller. But it crumbles at every attempt.
First off, if you’re going to have American characters, have them played by American actors; the UK leads sport distractingly uneven accents throughout, and their foreignness adds nothing to the story. Secondly, twists aren’t twists if they’re telegraphed within the first act, and are even less effective when screentime is wasted on drawn-out scares rather than exploring any backstory or motivations.
Throughout the movie are sparks, promises of different angles on the paranormal investigator/possession/ghost tropes, but the end result is a scrapbook of previous, superior films. I see a ghost of a movie that could have been better.