Malevolent starts off well enough. Set in Scotland in the 1980s, it's the tale of a brother and sister (Jackson and Angela, played by Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Florence Pugh) who, along with a couple of friends, make themselves money by going in to locations that are apparently haunted and conducting a "clearance". It's quite an easy gig, and they have their patter down to a fine art, but it's not long into the movie when things start to become a lot less fake than usual. Things start to get odd for Angela during what should be a regular, easy, gig. Then things go from bad to worse when they are hired by a woman (Celia Imrie) who claims to be plagued by the spirits of noisy children in her home.
It's not that the acting here is bad, not really. Imrie may be the veteran, and she's good fun in her role, but the performances from Lloyd-Hughes and Pugh are decent enough, as is the supporting turn from Scott Chambers (playing the other main member of the group; Georgina Bevan is also onscreen but given so little to do that she barely makes an impression). James Cosmo is as good as ever in his small role, Niall Greig Fulton does okay, and that covers the main characters.
The script isn't really that bad either. Written by Ben Ketai and Eva Konstantopoulos (based on the novel "Hush" by the latter), it mixes in enough melodrama and decent ideas to create a heady brew. You have a dead parent who was apparently insane, claiming to be contacted by spirits. You have the dynamic of the brother and sister relationship, with the male pushing his female sibling into situations that she starts to find increasingly uncomfortable. And you have the character played by Imrie, eccentric and mysterious, perhaps innocent but perhaps not-so-innocent. There are even one or two decent scares in the first half of the film. Then the second half starts up, moving everything along to a third act that is horribly muddled and misjudged, sacrificing any creepy atmosphere for violence and any subtlety for crude simplicity. It becomes embarrassing long before the whole debacle draws to a depressingly dull conclusion.
Director Olaf de Fleur Johannesson (credited as just Olaf De Fleur) doesn't help. His background, a filmography that includes a number of documentary features and standard fictions, seems to have left him ill-prepared for this kind of material. This may explain why he does better in the earlier scenes that feature the strangeness developing in the background of the central relationship dynamics. And if it was his decision to accompany some spooky visuals in the second half of the movie with horribly unnecessary "spooky" voices then he really helped to undermine what could have been a decent little ghost story before that sharp turn to the violence.
I started off this review trying to be kind, as usual, but the more time I spent writing about it, the angrier I got. It's just so bloody annoying. Especially after a solid, if unspectacular, opening act. So much is left unexplored (background of the characters, emotional baggage, even the fact that it is set in the 1980s . . . something I assumed would figure into the plot but it never does) that the viewing experience just becomes more and more frustrating.
Some will be able to watch this and not become as irked as I was. Good for them. I suggest most people skip this and instead pick one of the MANY better horror titles available.
You can grab some horror movies here.
Americans can get some tricks or treats here.