A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Malevolent is a 2018 horror movie in which two siblings who run a fake ghost-busting business get more than they bargained for when they visit an orphanage with a dark past. Horror movie violence includes characters tied to chairs while getting their mouths sewn up, chopped with a machete, and hit in the head with a shovel. Horror movie imagery includes zombie-looking girls with their mouths sewn up, the mother of the lead character appearing as a ghost without her eyes; there's talk in an earlier scene of how she clawed her eyes out while alive due to mental illness. An elderly man is struck and killed by a car -- the car careens out of control, crashes into a tree, and injures the passengers and driver, with some blood shown. The antagonist talks of the abuse she suffered as a child, including having her private parts burned. One of the lead characters is beaten up by the henchmen of someone he owes money to. "F--k" is used several times, as well as other profanity. There's cigarette smoking, and drinking of alcohol in a bar. A lead character overhears her brother and girlfriend having sex in the next room.
What's the story?
In MALEVOLENT, Ange (Florence Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) are young American expat siblings living in Glasgow in 1986. With the help of cameraman Elliot (Scott Chambers) and Jackson's girlfriend Beth (Georgina Bevan) working the tape recorder, they run a sham business as pretend "ghostbusters." While Ange wants to stop swindling innocent people and concentrate more on her studies as a psychology major -- in spite of the paranormal experiences she's having, an inheritance from their mother, who suffered mental illness and committed suicide -- Jackson needs to continue the operation long enough to pay off his violent, impatient, and presumably criminal debtors. Whey they receive a call from a Mrs. Green to remove the ghosts of screaming girls who were brutally murdered in what had once been a foster home, Jackson convinces Ange to accept the job, despite her nightmares and misgivings. They learn that Mrs. Green's son Herman had brutally murdered the girls. When the four young adults arrive at the former foster home, Mrs. Green suspects that they are con artists, as Ange starts to actually hear and see the ghosts of the murdered girls. After Elliot falls through the floor and Beth goes missing, the four try to find a way to escape, but discover that the truth of the haunted foster home is more horrible than they could have imagined.
Is it any good?
This is an above-average horror movie that relies equally on excellent acting and overdone horror tropes. Florence Pugh and Ben Lloyd-Hughes go far beyond the subpar acting often scene in horror movies, heightening the scares in a so-so premise and story. Either as the mediocre con artists in the movie's first half, or the traumatized victims in the movie's second half, the two bring so much to their roles, it's easy to get lost in the suspense. And as that suspense escalates (along with the blood and gore), the other actors rise (or fall down, bloodied) to the occasion.
Where Malevolent falls short is its over-reliance on horror movie tropes and conventions. For instance: the bloody nose as a sign of possessing paranormal ability, or the "tea kettle" sound effect to gin up the suspense. It doesn't take a genius to figure out the major "plot twist" long before it's revealed. Furthermore, it's hard not to see the obvious influences on the movie -- how can one not think of The Shining when seeing the ghosts of murdered young girls at the end of a corridor, for instance, or The Blair Witch Project when viewing the action through one of the character's home movie cameras? Among others. And yet, the movie still brings some scares and excitement in a genre where it's easy to think it's all been done before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror movie violence and imagery. How does Malevolent compare to other horror movies you've seen?
How do horror movies use background music and other "tricks" of filming and editing in order to scare the viewer?
Why are horror movies so popular? What's the appeal?
For kids who love horror
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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