Set in 1986, Malevolent details the horror that ensues after four friends/scam artists (Florence Pugh’s Angela, Ben Lloyd-Hughes’ Jackson, Scott Chambers’ Elliot, and Georgina Bevan’s Beth) find themselves face-to-face with a very real threat after arriving at a remote country estate. It’s clear that Malevolent is ultimately at its best during its deliberate yet rather promising opening stretch, as filmmaker Olaf de Fleur Johannesson effectively exploits the somewhat irresistible premise, which predominately involves Angela’s growing realization that maybe she really does possess supernatural abilities, by punctuating the proceedings with a handful of admittedly effective jump scares (including a solid jolt right before the main title card). From there, however, Malevolent segues into a progressively tedious and hopelessly by-the-numbers midsection that’s almost entirely devoid of compelling elements – with the progressively arms-length atmosphere compounded by a sluggish pace and a repetitive narrative (ie the movie morphs into an aggressively typical haunted-house story, complete with spooky noises and creepy children). Johannesson’s inability to wring any terror or suspense from the material certainly exacerbates the pervasively underwhelming vibe, while the film’s interminable third act, which emphasizes the tiresome activities of human villains, ensures that the whole thing peters out to an exceedingly palpable extent. The end result is as ineffective and monotonous a horror effort as one can easily recall, which is a shame, really, given the brief bursts of promise contained throughout and the strength of the film’s various performances.
* out of ****