A decent film with a good lead performance by Pugh
Malevolent (2018): 6 out of 10: Brother and sister (Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Florence Pugh) lead a team of Ghostbusters in 1986, Scotland. Unfortunately, they are scam artists taking advantage of those in grief and those still haunted by the dead. They may have an actual gift to talk to and see the dead, a fact that becomes all too apparent on their latest job.
The Good: Florence Pugh has the potential to be a breakout star. (Since I originally wrote this review, she has become exactly that). She is the lead on this film and admirably carries it through to the end. The entire cast is quite serviceable, even with handicaps provided by the narrative.
Though this is a well-worn premise it is a good one. The movie does a nice job handling the hows and whys of the fake ghost busting and allows the characters to show genuine emotion and have understandable conflicts with each other.
The Bad: (Spoiler): Eli Roth’s Hostel is almost the perfect movie going experience. The twist is so out of left field and so visceral that it just works. It is also a trick one can only pull off on an unsuspecting audience (or one that has been lulled into complacency by the narrative they forgot what kind of movie they are watching.) This does not work in Hostel: Part II.
We know what is going to happen in Malevolent. Like I said above, it is a tale as old as time. What we might not have expected however is Eli Roth’s Hostel showing up for the last half an hour. It is a bit jarring for what was an until then pleasant indie ghost story. Fans of torture porn will never make it through the first hour and people who enjoy a pleasant ghost story may quickly nope out when mouths are sewn shut and limbs broken.
The Ugly: Why does this take place in 1986? It adds nothing, and Pugh’s very un-eighties earrings will certainly distract. Also, are the siblings supposed to be American? They are both clearly English actors, and the brother’s subplot doesn’t make much sense if he is a recent transplant. Yet the script keeps giving the impression that they are recent American immigrants.
In Conclusion: A decent film with an excellent lead performance by Pugh that seems to change genres two-thirds of the way through and not for the better. On the plus side, credit must be given that once the protagonists realize that there is an evil presence, they immediately make a run for it. Kudos for that.