“None of the dead come back. But some stay.”
–St John the Divine
Halloween is just around the corner so what better way to spend the holiday than scouring Netflix for a good old-fashioned fright fest? With quite a few Netflix original horror flix dumped on the service over the past few weeks, I thought I’d take a look at one of the newer ones. Enter ‘Malevolent,’ a decent yet unoriginal voyage to remind us that things that go bump in the night aren’t always of the supernatural variety.
Angela and Jackson are siblings from the US that have relocated to Scotland. With their friends Elliott and Beth, they run a medium service to rid people’s homes of ghosts but, in reality, they are charlatans, scamming people for a quick buck. Things change though when, at the start of the movie, Angela begins to see and hear voices the others don’t. Jackson—who should be nominated as one of the most unlikable protagonists in a film this year—doesn’t believe her. As Angela questions her own sanity, she gets a deeper understanding of her mother’s life and the cause behind her death. Ready to give up the medium ruse Jackson—due to owing money to men of questionable standing—convinces her to take one more job; that commissioned by the Green Estate.
It’s not a guess to imagine what happens from here. Though the last job gave Angela but a glimpse her connection to the spirit world, from the moment she steps into the Green Estate home, she knows things aren’t going to go smoothly. What follows is a slow burn unfolding of a grisly tale where Angela learns that seeing ghosts are the only thing she needs to be worried about.
To create the requisite tension necessary to foster an atmosphere of dread, a horror movie needs to balance the
scales between its own unique approach and fine-tuning the normal genre tropes to fit its particular story. In some regards, ‘Malevolent’ succeeds: unique camera angles (at least in the beginning) from what one is used to, throws the viewer off-balance, and a deliberate pace that almost forces the viewer to anticipate what lies around the next corner. The use of background voices is done extremely well, to the point that the audience may find themselves glancing over their shoulders. Unfortunately, there are too many negatives that sap the movie’s overall success. The musical score is somewhat lazy and unoriginal. Save for the eerily creepy rendition of “Beep Beep”, it gives no real support to help build tension or dread. The decision to have the primary events all occur during the daylight is a curious one: though an oft-used tool in horror, there’s something to be said for the success darkness has of creating an ominous atmosphere. Were it a stronger movie, this may not have mattered but Malevolent doesn’t have a story (or actors) strong enough to make up for what would have been a trope-y decision.the visual aspect, there are some decent elements of horror present. This is an effects-light movie and while the majority of these moments don’t occur until the last third of the film but they do help create the vibe that something horrific is happening before our very eyes. A few spotty camera angles add to the tension but it’s not enough to impress most viewers.
In all, ‘Malevolent’ is a low-budget affair that, in some ways, comes across as mid-level found footage-type film. There is nothing about it that stands out and only the primary protagonist, Angela, feels more than a two-dimensional character cutout. There are better things on Netflix than ‘Malevolent,’ and though there were a handful of moments, it’s a forgettable 90-minute fest that’ll quickly fade from memory.
‘Malevolent’ – Netflix Original