When your life is full of evil secrets, ghosts are an occupational hazard—and even a phony ghostbuster can save the day.
American college student Angie (Florence Pugh) is the front for a paranormal investigation racket in Glasgow.
Led by her brother Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), the four-person team sets up gadgets and spook detectors around the “haunted” house, while Angie makes contact with the restless spirit, imploring them to shuffle off their post-mortal coil. Jackson then swoops in to handle the messy but necessary financial arrangements.
It helps their reputation immensely that Angie and Jackson’s mother was a renowned psychic in her own right, albeit one who came to a sad end.
As word gets around, the team is contacted by Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie), the headmistress at a secluded foster home. Apparently the spirits of three murdered schoolgirls are stirring things up and nobody can get a proper night’s sleep.
There are few surprises in Malevolent, but it’s a tale well-told, as the ghost hunters unwrap a horrible mystery that won’t stay buried, even as their new client begins to suspect she’s been duped by some hustlers.
It’s a handsomely mounted British production, and director Olaf De Fleur effectively uses the decay and desolation of a once-grand estate to act as a visual metaphor for the darkness within.
As the ambivalent Angie, Florence Pugh turns in admirable work. Her point of view is chaotic and troubled, remaining duty bound to her conniving brother, but also coming to the realization that her mother was much more than a lunatic.
Like Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, the presence of ghost children is both terrifying and tragic, blameless victims of sinister intentions who must find a way to be heard so that a longstanding injustice may be rectified.