“Malevolent” is another Netflix flick that could have been something exciting, but quickly turned into an exercise of repeating the genre’s tropes.
“Malevolent” tells the story of a group of students, who make extra money by pretending to be ghost mediums. One of their customers happens to be a bit more challenging than their easy-to-trick rest – she wants her deceased daughters to stop haunting her house. Soon, the pack of students learns a terrifying secret, hidden in the manor of the mysterious lady.
Some horror films begin with an astonishing premise, while others are promising due to other reasons – a brooding atmosphere, a gloomy setting etc. Often it’s enough to keep your interest. While “Malevolent”, directed by Olaf de Fleur, kicks off with an unbearable cliche (a group of young people getting into a bloody mess), the substance in the first half is enough to glue you to the screen. Despite the story’s paint-by-numbers structure, de Fleur’s confidence beams glowingly. “Malevolent” grows wings to fly – the sneaky camera work matched with a gloomy score create a dreadful atmosphere.
The quick take-off is fueled in a great part by Florence Pugh, known from break-out role in “Lady Macbeth”. The actress deserves a more meaty character to chew into, but she’s still capably engaging and convincing. For a film, where the primary goal is to scare its viewer, Pugh finds cunning ways to signal her presence and add an extra layer to it.
The flight of “Malevolent” begins to descend once the group of cheaters sets up their gear in the gargantuan mansion. Theoretically, “Malevolent” should be getting more exciting, vibrant and scary, because our flies are lured into a spider’s net. Unfortunately, Olaf de Fleur cuts his own wings off.
While Pugh already had troubles in the better, first half of “Malevolent”, her character becomes a disposable horror trope (along with anything else that’s taking place on the screen) in the second one. All of the characters – both students and the “bad guys” – could squeeze their brains in a nail’s head, because of the motifs and actions being everything but reasonable. De Fleur creates an illusion for that foolish behavior, but as much as he dresses it in fear and building the tension, there’s no way to conceal the obvious fault of the plot – its triviality.
“Theoretically, “Malevolent” should be getting more exciting, vibrant and scary, because our flies are lured into a spider’s net. Unfortunately, Olaf de Fleur cuts his own wings off.”
Then comes the final sequence – a bloody, ill-inspired mayhem that constitutes a good portion of “Malevolent” last breathe and which also erases everything good that de Fleur has been constructing for the first forty minutes of the film. Even if the director hinted to an ambition of a double-barreled ghost story, it wastes its potential entirely. By the end of it all, Olaf de Fleur’s “Malevolent” will only be a sad reminder that you should think twice before digging into Netflix-labeled horror in-house productions again.
Dir. Olaf de Fleur
Hate Grade: 7/10