(UK - 2018)
Directed by Olaf de Fleur. Written by Ben Ketai and Eva Konstantopoulos. Cast: Florence Pugh, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Celia Imrie, James Cosmo, Scott Chambers, Georgina Bevan, Niall Greig Fulton, Nicola Grier, Stephen McCole, Daisy Mathewson, Charlotte Allen, Shelley Conn, Ian Milne. (Unrated, 88 mins)
A British import acquired by Netflix, MALEVOLENT doesn't break any new ground as far as ghost stories go, but Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur and rising star Florence Pugh (who won significant acclaim with 2017's LADY MACBETH) make sure to hit all the right notes in a first hour that holds your attention and has a few effective jump scares. But then MALEVOLENT shits the bed in a way we haven't seen since DON'T BREATHE broke out the turkey baster, with a shift in style and tone that's so jarring that you might think the last 30 minutes came from a different movie that was just thawed after being frozen in ice since 2007. Co-written by Ben Ketai (THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT), and set in Glasgow (in 1986, for no particular reason), MALEVOLENT focuses on two American siblings--college student Angela Sayers (Pugh) and her older brother Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Holmes)--who run a ghostbusting con act with Jackson's girlfriend Beth (Georgina Bevan) and nerdy tech guy Elliott (Scott Chambers), who can barely conceal his unrequited crush on Angela. With prerecorded sound effects, they pretend Angela has an ability to communicate with ghosts left behind, convincing them to leave the house. It's a scam they learned from their late mother (Nicola Grier), an unstable sort who committed suicide after clawing her eyes out. With their American father out of the picture, the Sayers' only family is their irascible Scottish grandfather (the great James Cosmo), who knows Jackson is a fraud just like his mother. D-bag Jackson's also heavily in debt to ruthless loan shark Craig (Ian Milne) and needs a lucrative supernatural hustle to settle a debt.