The Malevolent Mixture That Screws You For Beliving It’s Horror
If ‘The Conjuring’ And ‘Hostel’ Had A Baby, It Would Be Malevolent. And That’s Not A Good Thing. WARNING — SPOILERS
I watched Netflix’s “Malevolent” before going to bed last night. And I had nightmares.
The two are not related.
Sometimes I just dream badly. And watch bad movies before it.
Directed by Olaf de Fleur, Malevolent wasn’t freaky or fascinating beyond the fact that Florence Pugh is hot. And since my dreams weren’t about smoking-hot Florence Pugh, or trashy horror movies, I’d say they were entirely of my own volition.
While not spawning memorable night-terrors, the movie did do a great job of tricking me into thinking I was watching one thing, when, in reality, I was watching something completely different.
In the beginning, we learn that Pugh, her brother, and two other pieces of cannon fodder, are scamming desperate people by going into their home and running away unwanted spirits. I know, been done before and should’ve stopped there, but what can I say, the unique fast pace hooked me. Or not! The movie limps along for the first forty minutes or so, showing the audience that Pugh’s mom really believed she saw ghosts and killed herself because of it, while Pugh just acts like she does because money.
When the movie actually begins, and you think you’re about to have fun, that this time spent wading through Pugh and her brother’s weird relationship, and everyone else’s palpable indifference, we get a ghost story from a creepy old lady that sits up a little too straight, in a spooky mansion that needs some TLC.
She says she’s hearing voices of the orphans she adopted many years ago. The ones, she claims, her son murdered one by one. Because horror.
As expected, Pugh’s supernatural talent goes haywire, and she and her brother both start seeing dead girls all over the place. Because apparently ghost-spotting is a DNA thing. But since the movie took such a long time getting there, the second act feels rushed.
After one of the guys who you are positive is going to die — the one carrying the 80s video camera and filming everything — falls through the floor and breaks his ankle, and the girl who has like two lines disappears for a few (out of nowhere they find her in the attic with her lips sowed shut), the crew rallies. They carry their wounded to the car and escape.
And here’s where I’m totally lost.
As the team is speeding to safety, Pugh’s brother that magically has The Shinning now sees a dead kid in the middle of the road. Instead of just slowing down and going around it, he closes his eyes and puts his head down, driving straight at the kid. Except it’s not a kid, it’s the gardener, and he’s real and alive and old and standing in the middle of the road. More about this later.
The crew crashes, the girl with her mouth sowed shut flies through the windshield and dies, and that’s when the real killer shows. Yup, apparently, the old lady’s son is alive and well — the one who killed all the kids — and he’s angry.
From here, and for about the next twelve minutes or so, the film shifts from Conjuring rip-off to Hostel copycat. We learn that the old lady had been the one torturing and killing the girls all along, her son just assisted. She legitimately believed Pugh and her crew could help get rid of the dead girl voices, which I’m assuming are just cries her mind made up out of guilt. Unless she supernatural DNA too. Who knows?
Let’s back up for one second. Now that you know it was the old lady and her son all along and that it’s not really a movie where the ghosts do anything besides walk down hallways, then what was the gardener doing in the road? Was he one of the murderers as well? Did he have dementia and thought he was in the Garden? What can possibly explain his willingness to play chicken with a speeding car and not flinch?
So many questions.
Anyway, Pugh’s brother gets torture-killed, and then, at the last moment, our broken ankle buddy limps his way to the rescue, killing the serial killing soon (who looks like Bullet-Tooth Tony from Snatch, by the way). Pugh, then, takes the chance to stab a now defenseless and distraught torture-grandma with a railroad spike.
Pugh struggles to the road, and later, we meet our two survivors recovering in a hospital.
Typically, I don’t walk readers through the movie, but I wanted to see if it made about as much sense on paper as it did on screen. And yup, sucks both ways. You just can’t act like your going to give me ghosts, only to give me torture-kills. I’m not twelve anymore, gore-porn doesn’t excite me, and I expect more from my movies.
Especially with a talented (I’m not sure she’s actually talented, but here’s to hoping), and I’ll say it again, sexy actress like Pugh. It’s about as jarring a ride as watching Back To The Future turn into The Matrix halfway because they’re both technically Sci-fi.
When it comes to films like Malevolent, realness is not a requirement. Consume me with lore. Overwhelm me with atmosphere. Drown me in spirts and seances. But save the purely torture-kill snuff films for another time.