Production company – Rusty Quill
Malevolent is a podcast whose reputation preceded it. I had heard good things from lots of places. Indeed, this review being written now is due to a Twitter thread where it was being widely praised. I figured I must have missed something. I’d listened to four episodes and, in the words of Shania Twain, it didn’t impress me much. So had I written it off too soon, or was I right in my hasty assumption? Read on and I’ll tell you.
So what’s it about?
Malevolent is a horror podcast that flies its Lovecraft flag with pride. The story follows Arkham P.I Arthur Lester who wakes up in his office with no memory of recent events and is unable to see. He can hear a mysterious voice though that appears to be coming from inside his head. This voice guides him, and so begins the adventure to discover not only what happened to Arthur, but what happened to “the voice” as well. This unlikely duo navigate as best they can to solve the mystery, without running afoul of the numerous enemies they encounter.
Speaking of enemies, there are plenty on display here. From distrustful police officers, spooky cultists and the more eldritch horrors of Lovecraft and Chambers, there are plenty of antagonists to try and hinder Arthur on his mission. It’s always fun to try and identify the creatures from the descriptions, playing a kind of mythos “Guess Who”
Is it any good?
Put it this way. It isn’t as bad as I first thought. I had let a few things colour my judgement, and I suspect I was being a bit fussy.
The voice acting is good, although the phase effect on “the voice” will never not be irritating. Even more impressive is that the whole thing is written, directed and performed by Harlan Guthrie. I was surprised at this because while there is obviously a limited cast I wouldn’t have guessed it was a solo effort. For the most part his accents and characterisations are spot on.
Likewise, the production values are reassuringly high. The sound effects are very good and help build tension well. The monster effects are excellent too. They sound original and exactly how I’d imagine an eldritch horror to sound, and the gurgling gore sounds are deliciously disgusting.
One of the things that first threw me (and still does), is that this is a cross between a written story and some kind of improvised roleplaying game. There are definitely points in the story where you can hear dice being rolled before clues or items get discovered.
***NOTE*** On looking at the website, it turns out that the patreon supporters got to vote on the outcome of the original shorter episodes. These got compiled into the longer ones that are released as the podcast.
It is almost literally like an RPG. Because Arthur can’t see, the voice is his eyes and has to describe the surroundings in the manner of a Games Master. This makes it seem like a cross between Call Of Cthulhu and vintage kids TV show Knightmare.
Based on the first four episodes I had decided it was a one or two brain podcast. Against my better judgement, and some (imagined) peer pressure on Twitter, I have given it another go.
I’m still not too sure what the point is with having the disembodied voice other than to act as a vehicle for the “interactive” side of the concept. I wonder if it would have been as effective to just have a mysterious person be in the room when Arthur woke up. The main plot points would still have worked just fine with minimal work. I’m sorry but I think there would have been a better effect than that weird phasing to give the impression of being in Arthur’s head.
Apart from the dice rolling aspect of this series, what ultimately held this back from getting a five brain score was the fact I didnt really like the main character much at all. Over the course of the series, he’s undergone great hardship and stress, and ultimately it bothered me not one bit. When Jonathan Sims realised his situation towards the end of his story, in fact anyone in T.M.A. it was genuinely emotional. Im not sure why, but there certainly were moments when I wished that Arthur would learn some respect for the things he was dealing with. Maybe its “character development”, but the way he starts to act , despite what he knows and has experienced should have had serious repercussions.
Despite my misgivings, and my own little “voice” saying to score it really low, I have to say that I’ve grown to like this series a lot. I could have binged the whole lot in two days, and the big twists make up for the things that I dislike. I still don’t feel that it’s a proper five brain show, but it has just squeaked into a four.
I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.
You can get Malevolent here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts.
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