Netflix Haunted House Horror Turns Scammers Into Victims

By Robert Scucci | Published

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a group of scammers get what they deserve after preying on innocent victims for the sake of profit. Malevolent is a great example of how being dishonest can end up biting you in the butt, but there’s so much more going on in this film that needs to be unpacked. Though I felt let down by this Netflix original’s overall execution, its concept is the stuff of nightmares that will have you begging for more, more, and more.

Malevolent Is A Different Type Of Haunted House Movie

Malevolent is different from most haunting movies because, in many cases, the hauntings aren’t real at first. Brother and sister Angela (Florence Pugh) and Jackson Sayers (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) start a shady paranormal investigation business with the help of Elliot (Scott Chambers) and his girlfriend, Beth (Georgina Bevan), as a way to scam clients who believe they’re being haunted by supernatural entities.

Sticking to a script and using elaborate (and fake) ghost-detecting technology, the group moves from house to house, and Angela uses her “gift” to cleanse whatever residence they’re investigating.

From Faking It To Making It

At Malevolent’s outset, it becomes apparent that Angela is actually starting to see things, but everybody chalks it up to her questionable mental state. It’s revealed early on that Jackson and Angela’s mother had a similar gift, which drove her first to insanity and suicide.

Angela, not knowing if what she’s seeing is real or the result of a dormant mental illness that has been suddenly awakened, is reluctant to take on one more job but decides to help Jackson with one more client to help him pay off some debts.

Questions Reality

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Upon meeting their new client, Mrs. Greene (Celia Imrie), the floodgate opens in Angela’s mind, and she fears that they’re dealing with a legitimate haunting in Malevolent. Plagued by visions of three little girls with their mouths sewn shut, Angela no longer wants to stick to the script but rather chooses to drop the facade and put her gift to the test instead of turning tricks.

Whether she’s hallucinating or seeing real-life ghosts is constantly called into question, but from her point of view, she’s justified in her suspicions.

Short And Haunting

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As much as Malevolent has going for it as a haunted house thriller, I feel like there’s something missing from the equation despite its great acting and surprisingly well-executed jump scares. Normally, I’m all for movies with 90-minute runtimes because that’s all filmmakers need to get their point across most of the time. But in this case, I had so many questions about Angela, her upbringing, and her history of either mental illness or misunderstood clairvoyance that were never really answered.

Brilliant Premise Let Down By Execution

Giving credit where it’s due, I have to say that Malevolent has a unique premise that isn’t completely undermined by its lackluster execution. The idea of con artists unwittingly becoming legitimate paranormal investigators against their will is kind of hilarious, even though Malevolent plays it straight like a traditional horror movie.

However, this movie would have benefited from a deeper exploration of Angela’s hidden gift and psychological makeup because her transition from scammer to supposed supernatural seeker felt glossed over.

Streaming Only On Netflix


Malevolent is well-acted and cast, which is a shame because it doesn’t have a great payoff. For a movie that has so much potential, I ended up immediately searching for a director’s cut to see if anything was cut out for the sake of pacing, but had no such luck.

You can stream Malevolent on Netflix if you’re willing to be let down by the film’s conclusion. It’s still worth checking out because the special effects are on point, and Florence Pugh never misses. Just don’t be too disappointed when you have more questions than answers that another 20 minutes of exposition could have helped explain.