Don't watch Malevolent in bed right before going to sleep, thinking it'll be a tame teen horror movie. Certainly, on the horror scale, Malevolent falls a few grades below gore-fests like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In Malevolent, premiering October 5 on Netflix, the horror seeps in slowly, perhaps because most of the characters — save Angela (a spectacular Florence Pugh) — refuse to admit horror is even a possibility. Eventually, the movie's events will change all of their minds, and in doing so imprint a few grotesque sequences into your memory.
Angela and her brother, Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), are American twins who move to Glasgow, Scotland after their mother takes her own life (via gouging out her own eyes, to be precise). Jackson, a budding con artist, has created a money-making scheme: fake ghost-hunting. As part of Sayer's Medium Service, Jackson, Angela, and their two partners-in-crime, Beth (Georgina Bevan) and Elliot (Scott Chambers) pretend to clear their home of ghosts. As Angela "investigates" the ghosts, Jackson "explains" the process to the homeowner. Meanwhile, Beth and Elliot set up fake sound effects. They prey on people made vulnerable by grief or fear.
Malevolent hinges on a single question: Is Angie actually psychic? As the answer changes, so too does the experience of the movie. At first, Angie is skeptical of her own visions. In their first house visit, Angie briefly sees a mannequin come to life. She thinks she's going insane. Then, Jackson convinces her to do another gig, this time to an abandoned orphanage at the end of a winding, one-lane Scottish road.
The orphanage was once the site of a horrible massacre. Herman, the son of the orphanage's owner, Mrs. Green (Celia Imrie), murdered all the girls. While walking around the empty orphanage, Angie sees apparitions of little girls with their faces sewn shut. She begins to follow the girls, not Jackson's plan — and that's when the trouble begins. By following her visions, Angie leads her team right into the very tangible force of evil that's living in the house: Mrs. Green herself.
Malevolent has all the hallmarks of a scary movie. It's set in a gloomy, isolated location. A bunch of teenagers look at a map while driving to said gloomy, isolated location — as if this were their one escape hatch from their fate. A supporting character breaks his leg on the way out. But in its ending, Malevolent distinguishes itself from other horror movies — because it's a particularly confusing ending. These are all your questions about the end of Malevolent, answered.
Are Angie and Jackson psychic?
Yes. In the movie, nosebleeds are a sure indicator of psychic capabilities. Both Angela and Jackson get nosebleeds and see the girls. Also, it's implied Jackson and Angela's mother was psychic, too, and spent her life in and out of mental institutions because she couldn't handle her powers.
What happens to Beth?
At some point, while Jackson is talking to Mrs. Green and Angela and Eliot are walking, Beth has her mouth sewn shut — just like the orphaned girls did. We can assume Herman, Mrs. Green's son, carried out the mutilation. Then, Beth is flung from the car during the crash and dies.
Wait, but why isn't Herman still in jail?
I do not know. The crimes were clearly covered by the press — Angela sees articles about the orphanage and its serial killer in newspaper archives. Mrs. Green describes wanting to avoid another incident of "wolves at the door," as happened years earlier when the press was stormed by public attention. Maybe he was never convicted.
Back to the main crime: Why did Herman and Mrs. Green kill the orphans?
Midway through the movie, a stone-faced Mrs. Green reveals her twisted inner thoughts to Jackson. "I wanted to give them a happy future," she begins, referring to the orphans. "They wouldn't listen to me. They would not be quiet. The girls were to blame, not Herman." She calls the girls "monsters." I think of Mrs. Green as a Dolores Umbridge-type character. She was a despot who demanded total obedience. She sewed the girls' mouth shut, left them to starve, and then had her son (and henchman) take the fall.
Maybe it's obvious, but why did Mrs. Green call the psychics if she knew she was responsible for the murders?
There are some clear logical flaws here. Mrs. Green wants her house to be rid of the girls' voices (and any reminders of guilt). So she's disappointed when she realizes that she's hired scam artists, not psychics. Here's the thing, though: Wouldn't psychics figure out that she was involved — or at least supportive of — the murders? After they figure it out, Mrs. Green has another problem on her own hands.
So that's why Mrs. Green sets off to kill everyone?
Once Angela wanders into the East Wing, Mrs. Green's face falls. It seems like she knows they're going to figure it — her big secret — out. Mrs. Green opens up to Jackson the most. She describes how she passed on her own mother's abuse — "she burned my privates" — to the daughters. How gruesome.
Who saves the day?
The ghost girls! Picture this: Angela is strapped to the chair, her mouth half sewn-shut. Mrs. Green is hacking away at Elliot. Angela makes contact with the three orphan ghosts who are watching the cycle of horror continue and calls on their support. The girls scream, creating the opposite effect of the silence Mrs. Green so craves. Either from guilt or from extreme noise sensitivity, Mrs. Green freezes, leaving her vulnerable to getting stabbed by Angela. With Mrs. Green dead, the girls fade away. Perhaps they have passed on.
Woo hoo! But wait — what happens to Jackson?
Unfortunately, Jackson, the adorable Miles Teller look-a-like that he is, is killed in the shed by Herman. After the ordeal is over, Angela sees him restored to his old self searching for Beth, his girlfriend. Angela is seeing a ghost.
What entity looming in that final shot?
As Angela tells Mrs. Green, Jackson was all she had left. With him gone, she's pretty much alone in the world, save her gramps. Her grandfather says on the phone, "You can't be alone now, Angela." Then, a shadow looms in front of her and creepy music plays. She responds confidently, "I'm not alone." Is that the ghost of Jackson? Talk about a cliffhanger!
One last thing: What the hell is that song?
Ah, isn't that the key question? The song is called "The Little Nash Rambler" by the Playmates, and I am very dismayed that I ever heard it. The eerie 1958 song first plays when Angie and Elliot are walking through the orphanage's empty bedrooms. It plays again when Mrs Green is doing her actual sewing. The song, which speeds up throughout, is the definition of unsettling.