Chathur Mukham

What is the movie about? :: Clement (Alencier Ley Lopez) used to be a professor in the Kerala Agricultural University, and even though he has retired from service, has a certain amount of interest in science which can be matched by nobody else. Due to his skills in science, he is approached by Antony (Sunny Wayne) who wishes to talk to him about a certain kind of energy which can be associated with ghosts, but this time, he is trying to connect the same with science in one way or the other. Clement is a strong believer in science, but not in ghosts, and he is not ready to believe in Antony’s tale about energy in the form of ghosts. Then, Antony comes up with the full story about the woman who was haunted by ghosts, Thejaswini (Manju Warrier). She is someone who spends most of her time in the social media, and has everything related to her life posted on Instagram. She belongs to a new generation which believes that technology is an important part of life, and also that women needs to have education and financial independence before getting married.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Hailing from Kollam, she works with her old friend, Antony who has been running a CCTV business at Thiruvananthapuram as a new venture. Things seem to work out well for her until a strange incident occurs during a ritual at temple and she losses her phone in the temple pond. This leads to her deciding to go for another phone, and she hopes she can find the cheapest one with multimedia features. It is then that she comes across a special offer in a website which seems to have started only a few days ago. This is a type of phone belonging to a brand that nobody had heard about, and they guess that it is some kind of new Chinese device. She orders the same, and gets it only to find out that there is something strange about it. She finds out that there are messages going out of it without her consent, and she even gets electrocuted from the charger, but the mobile phone seems to have full charge even after a long time period of usage. Initially, she feels that only the selfie camera of the phone is the weaker link.

And what is to follow with the terrifying series of events? :: But there is much more to the mobile phone than what meets the eye. The sequence of events unfold in such a way that she becomes afraid of her own mobile phone. She tries to get rid of the phone multiple times, but it ends up being with her, or forces her to take it back in one way or the other. Even dropping the phone in the middle of the road or the temple pond doesn’t help. As the phone continues to come towards her and cause problems, she becomes confident that there is a ghost haunting the phone. She approaches a local magician, but the spirit scares him away too, and she is forced to live with the phone which seems to slowly taking her to death. Clement is still not convinced, and decides to see the woman anyway. But this leads them to a strange past that the mobile phone seems to have a strange and mysterious past, and it is not the only phone that belongs to the same category.

The defence of Chathur Mukham :: The film provides a good deviation from the usual horror films, with technology bringing the horror again, as it was surely tried before, but not with this much focus on science. The cinematography is one thing that increases the effectiveness of this film, as we can see them. These are not the usual horror settings, but the different ones which can provide the environment in a similar manner with variety. With the mobile phone at the centre, this doesn’t even need to have that much of the usual jump scares in action to bring the horror to the social media and the usual dose of technology. There is also the chance of a sequel which is left behind at the end. The special effects are used well enough, and there are some fine explanations to the horror which is added here too. Having Manju Warrier as the main character is also a good addition. With technology being an integral part of our lives, the ghost from technology is more relevant here in comparison to those spirits which wandered through cemeteries and old haunted houses.

The claws of flaw :: There are the usual kind of things which have been done before, and these repetitions bring us back to different films which we have seen before, like The Ring and The Final Destination series. The dramatic side is also not that effective in comparison, and some characters are just not used well enough. With the concept having the deviation, the film could have made it even more innovative, but by the end, film is moving more towards a safer side rather than anything else. It could have also focused on the background, or added more scares, which are not considered either. The ending could have also been better, because there was the chance for creating something grand. It could have also had some science fiction elements taking over in between, but that doesn’t happen, and the film could have also had more deaths, and more spreading of terror. When you have spirits in store within a mobile phone and when it has effect on technology and electricity, you know there are no limits that need to established – it could have run free.

Performers of the soul :: Manju Warrier leads the way in a horror film, and even though this genre is not unfamiliar to her, when we consider The Priest, this is time she faces the ghost, her own fears and death as a strong character. Sunny Wayne, just like he did in Sara’s and June, has the supporting role in another heroine-centered film, which he does in his usual way, being the second most important character around here. He doesn’t really have his moments this time though, but manages to hold on. Niranjana Anoop is unfortunately wasted in a small role here, and the character doesn’t even get killed by the ghost – a few others at least had moments in that way in comparison. The other actors who deserved more attention, including Rony David, Srikant Murali, Babu Annur etc also have their roles limited. Alencier Ley Lopez is the only other actor who comes into the spotlight, and this happens to be a nice change for him from the usual roles. Meanwhile, Shyamaprasad is notable in his small role, while mobile phone is definitely a character all by itself with its ghostly presence.

How it finishes :: Identified as techno horror, the film does have its moments. We have already had ghosts haunting electronic devices, especially mobile phones – the Bollywood film 3G was related to the same, and this one is certainly a better creation in comparison, even though it released eight years later. Pretham and Pretham 2 were also wanderings through the spiritual presence in technology. There are many things that make Chathur Mukham different though, and Manju Warrier is surely one of those elements. This one also works as a warning against the presence of technology in our lives. This is the kind of film which could have released on the OTT platforms much earlier – this delay has made the interest in the movie much lesser, and the fact that it didn’t release in Amazon Prime Video also contributes to that. Cold Case with its ghost in the refrigerator had already made the supernatural working online, and now we have this ghost to haunt the OTT, which it surely does pretty well.

Release date: 8th April 2021 (India), 8th July 2021 (ZEE 5)
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: Ranjeet Kamala Sankar, Salil V
Starring: Manju Warrier, Sunny Wayne, Alencier Ley Lopez, Rony David, Shyamaprasad, Niranjana Anoop, Babu Annur, Srikant Murali, Shaju Sreedhar, Kalabhavan Prajod, Balaji Sarma, Navas Vallikkunnu, Saranjith

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Cold Case

What is the movie about? :: ACP Sathyajith (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is in charge of an investigation of a case which has turned cold. As a skull is discovered in the backwaters near Trivandrum, from within a cover, and it becomes an internet sensation, the requirement is to discover its origins as soon as possible. But Sathyajith has to start with no clue on where to begin the investigation, but with the help of CI Ziyad (Anil Nedumangad) and the new recruit Neela (Pooja Mohanraj), he has to make a move quickly. At the same time, Medha (Aditi Balan) is a recently divorced mother of a little girl, and finds a new home somewhere around Trivandrum. She is an investigative journalist who is interested in paranormal happenings, only to find something strange in the new house which she had rented. There is something cold about her new home, and the AC, refrigerator, television, laptop, lights – everything electric seems to have something to do with it. To add to it, her daughter also has a strange doll given by her sister who committed suicide.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Medha finds out a name from a blind occult researcher, Zara Zacchai (Suchitra Pillai), and the presence had a name, Eva Maria (Athmiya Rajan), who has a troubled history. She tries to find out the secret behind the disappearance of the woman with that particular name, while Sathyajith also comes across a similar name, from a dental transplant which remained on the skull. Now the question remains where Eva Maria has disappeared, and whether the skull points to somebody else. Medha’s advocate who filed the divorce, Haritha Manakkal (Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli) points her to Eva’s previous husband who is now married to a wealthy lady, and Sathyajith also digs up her past, from her family which included her stepmother and children. But Eva Maria hadn’t disappeared for everyone, and some people feel that she had taken a spiritual path. There is more than what meets the eye about Eva, but with ghosts and murderers around, can truth somehow make it outside?

The defence of Cold Case :: Here, Cold Case comes up as another interesting thriller with a supernatural side, combining both elements quite well. The supernatural side is also nicely used, even though it is not combined well enough in totality. There are some nice moments of horror around here, and there are fine twists to go with it. With some red herrings added here and there, the film makes sure that we don’t get that much of a clue about who is behind all of these happenings. There is always something here to keep the horror going, and the suspense does keeps us guessing – we do come up with many possible villains, but this asks for more than the usual guesses. The use of refrigerator and the cold works pretty well, but the hair doesn’t. Above everything, the cast is also good, and with fine support, things work better. This one can have its sequel for sure, as there is that opening which is left to be explored in the end.

The claws of flaw :: Cold Case, while trying to do it differently, focuses on too many things, and due to the same reason, has some diversion, which was not needed. The problem with having such diversions is that the most important thing, the police investigation is not always on the lead. The other side following the supernatural lead often seems to be not necessary, as we keep having moments from both sides. An expansion of the supernatural, and making it connect directly with the police investigation would have improved the work further. The idea about another death is also kept in the balance, to be explored in a sequel if there is any. The film certainly had so many opportunities, and it should have taken it, maybe even at the expense of extending the film by half an hour or so. If this had released when most of the Indian states were in lock-down, it would have managed many more audience too, but this is surely going to gain its fans, anyway.

Performers of the soul :: Prithviraj Sukumaran in a thriller has always been joy to watch, and there is no better example for the same than Memories, one of the best investigation thrillers of all-time as far as Malayalam movie industry is concerned. Kunchacko Boban’s triple thrillers of Anjaam Pathira, Nayattu and Nizhal seemed to suggest that a deviation was coming in the genre, and the usual police officer solving a case was gone, a case reiterated by Tovino Thomas in Forensic – none of these films had the police officers solving the problem. Prithviraj as the protagonist, the police officer goes after the case here in a more systematic manner as we see it. He is certainly the hero here, even though the tale does provide a side for the lady protagonist too. He is indeed the one who solves the problem here, and any ghostly help which comes from outside was not that much needed. We see that Prithviraj comfortably go through the role here, and has no direct contact with the paranormal side to ask for help.

Further performers of the soul :: Aditi Balan makes her Malayalam debut in style too. She does have her moments, but her character doesn’t have that much strength to add to this investigation, which is in control of the police. Almost all the supernatural elements are related to her, and she excels in her first Malayalam film, far above her character, as we also see the focus shifting to her effectively. This is also one of the final films of the talented Anil Nedumangad, who died by drowning in a dam reservior a few months ago. He once again proves to be of fine support yet again. Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli who was last seen in Malayalam cinema in the movies Angels and Salt Mango Tree can be seen in a certain kind of a return here too, and she has done a neat work here. Alencier Ley Lopez has much more to contribute here than what earlier met the eye. Athmeeya Rajan of the Joseph fame is once again here as the lady everyone is searching for, and she has done some fine work, even though we have much less of her on the screen.

How it finishes :: Cold Case is not the usual kind of investigative thriller, as there is the supernatural side going strong from one angle, which might have been less expected from the work. There are lots of interesting moments in this film, and it also leaves a scope for a sequel in the end. It is part of that long list of thrillers which have brought the entertainment to us during the COVID-19 season, and with some horror effects to add to the investigation, this is also one nice flick to watch in the theatre, if there is ever any opening of the same in the upcoming months. We can only thank Amazon Prime Video for bringing us films like these which keeps the entertainment coming to our laptops. When Kilometers and Kilometers released on television, people had the feeling that this was not going to work, but now we have so many films which have released or had a later release in the OTT platform. Cold Case makes it there, and it also scores well, just like the other Malayalam films which came to OTT, with Drishyam 2 in the lead.

Release date: 30th June 2021 (Amazon Prime)
Running time: 139 minutes
Directed by: Tanu Balak
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Aditi Balan, Anil Nedumangad, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli, Nitha Promy, Athmeeya Rajan, Pooja Mohanraj, Suchitra Pillai, Gibin Gopinath, Alencier Ley Lopez, Parvathy T, Baby Aleena, Tessa Simon, Rajesh Hebbar

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Priest

What is the movie about? :: Fr Carmen Benedict (Mammootty) is a priest who is known to have helped the police in multiple cases. Diya Alex Alatt (Saniya Iyappan) approaches him with a certain amount of concern regarding a series of deaths which had occured earlier in the rich and influential family, and were dismissed as suicides. Diya feels that the present controller of the assets of the family, Elizabeth Alatt (Meera Nair) might know something about it. He calls DYSP Shekhar (Sivadas Kannur), who begins to share some of his doubts. When a little girl named Ameya Gabriel (Baby Monica) is also found in the house, and the connected incidents related to her lead to the discovery of more clues related to the murder, Fr Carmen also understands that there is more to her than what meets the eye. Ameya is an orphan, and nobody has any idea what she is upto, because she often goes missing from her orphanage, and comes back by herself. Her actions are also nothing less than what others consider to be strange.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Jessy Cherian (Nikhila Vimal), a new teacher takes charge in the school where Ameya is studying. Even though Ameya has been hostile to each and every person in the school including teachers and students, she immediately becomes friendly to Jessy who is also happy about the same. As the school is closed for summer vacation, Ameya begs for her to be taken with Jessy. With the permission of the orphanage authorities, she manages to take the child to her home in the highlands, which had been abandoned for a long time. But it turns out that this child is not really the kid which she had expected. When anyone else comes in between Jessy and Ameya, the latter reacts violently, especially when Jessy’s fiance Siddharth (Venkitesh VP) comes to meet her, and proposes her. Soon, things take a further violent turn, and Fr Carmen makes his way to the place, as he understands the seriousness of the situation. But this might not be the kind of spirit which Carmen thought it is. He takes the help of Dr Mathews (TG Ravi), but he understands the need to learn about the spirit.

The defence of The Priest :: The movie scores heavily with its visuals, as we do have a perfect setting for horror, and along with the environment, there are the usual scares effectively used with the help of sound effects. The music is also very interesting. The scares are added here and there, and at times they work depending on the audience. There are some twists to be added here, but we do expect a few among with ease, seemingly because of trying to stick to the Hollywood style. The performance are also of a higher level, even though we do feel that the first investigation was even more interesting than what came later. It does have the most interesting part in the beginning, like Mammootty’s Abrahaminte Santhathikal had that crime at the start, and even with the presence of clowns, doesn’t make them nonsensical like it was done in the strange Mammootty movie The Great Father. Instead, most of the time, The Priest plays to its strength, and makes sure that there is no risk taken, even though it was there to be taken.

The claws of flaw :: The Priest has many elements which we would feel borrowed, and the reminder of Hollywood movies is sure to come back here. The climax doesn’t deliver the needed punch either, as it goes through the safe way, and adds one scene after the finish, seemingly as a justification. Looking at films like The Conjuring, The Nun, Insidious, Sinister and Annabelle, we have had an overdose of horror movies with spirits, and as there was enough for reference, this could have certainly done better – we all remember what Ezra did with the Jewish demon. Well, when the demon really doesn’t want to be terrifying, and with the first motive being close to a Mathematics teachers, the scary side weakens – when the motive and actions of the supernatural doesn’t scare us enough, the genre itself struggles. After all, a spirit should do what it always does the best, and it should go further when listing itself as a horror film at all places. There can be more to an act of exorcism and the process of haunting. We also see something missing with the sequence of events, but can’t talk about that without revealing the suspense and twists.

The performers of the soul :: The movie was marketed as the first movie in which Mammootty and Manju Warrier acted together – the last word does have some complications though, because the latter’s character was dead some time ago, and so the characters won’t be living together in the film, and we would have to wait to see them in the leading roles. Manju Warrier’s role is also quite short here, and it can be considered only as long as the work of Saniya Iyappan who also has some work to do related to the first adventure of the protagonist. Mammootty’s avatar here is a lot better than what we have seen in most of his action and thriller films, and this is a character that he does with ease. We can now remember him like Father Brown, the Roman Catholic priest and detective who was the main character in the fifty three short stories written by British novelist GK Chesterton in the years after Victorian era. There we were not into horror though.

Further performers of the soul :: Even though often known as the first Mammootty-Manju Warrier movie, the latter gets only limited presence, and in the first half we don’t even have a clue that she exists. But when she is there, she works through this very well. Nikhila Vimal is once again seen as a talented actress, extending her good work from Njan Prakashan and Aravindante Athithikal. Saniya Iyappan has the early shorter presence, and as we had seen her effectiveness in horror with Krishnankutty Pani Thudangi where she was the only saving grace, we were expected more of her presence there. Ramesh Pisharody and Jagadish are also given some early moments in here. Venkitesh VP whom we have known from the television show Nayika Nayakan also has done some good work. Baby Monica also contributes nicely once the horror side begins. She excels in displaying that scary side which is brought to light in the second half of the movie.

How it finishes :: The Priest was among the much awaited movies with Mammootty in the lead, and it has come late due to COVID-19 pandemic – according to the reports, it has still managed to be a profit-making venture, even with the theatre occupancy being controlled. The Priest is the one Malayalam movie which brought the viewers to the theatres and made sure that the business was running smoothly. As it has released on the OTT platform of Amazon Prime, one can now watch the film without those fears which we had earlier. The Priest is not only on a path towards being a stylish horror movie, as it is also an innovation in having a release on an OTT platform a month after its theatre release – it is a path which many more movies can follow, as there are other films which need to be released, and we are still facing the worst case of that one grand pandemic. With the clouds bringing darkness early in the afternoon, The Priest makes an interesting thriller for the time, even though it could have been bigger and smarter.

I also wish everyone a Very Happy Vishu! Stay safe and enjoy the day 🙂

Release date: 11th March 2021 (Theatre), 14th April 2021 (Amazon Prime)
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Jofin T Chacko
Starring: Mammootty, Manju Warrier, Nikhila Vimal, Baby Monica, Venkitesh VP, Saniya Iyappan, Sivadas Kannur, Jagadish, Lishoy, Shivaji Guruvayoor, Ramesh Pisharody, Kochu Preman, Ameya Mathew, TG Ravi, Dinesh Panicker, Kalabhavan Haneef, Naseer Sankranthi, Sminu Sijo, Jeeva Joseph, Shiny T Rajan, VK Prakash, Meera Nair, Thomas Kuriakose, Jayadevan, Manoj Chennai, Sohan Seenulal, Madhupal

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Anjaam Pathiraa

What is the movie about? :: A policeman is murdered, with no clue being left behind for the cops to follow. The dead body is soon found, and it was supposed to be a case of revenge from one of the criminals whom he had locked up earlier, but it doesn’t end there. A second policeman is found dead, with the killer following the same pattern of murder, including the corpses of the men being left without their eyes and heart. This leads to a crisis in the police department, and a team being formed to investigate the case lead by Catherine Maria (Unnimaya Prasad) and Anil Madhavan (Jinu Joseph). The latter also includes in the team, Anwar Hussain (Kunchacko Boban), a psychologist who is serving as a consulting criminologist for the police department. He has been studying the psychology of criminals on the way to a doctorate. As the CCTV cameras are also hacked, a hacker and Anwar’s patient, Andew (Sreenath Bhasi) is also forced into the team.

So, what happens with the events here? :: The series of murders doesn’t seem to stop though, even though all the policemen of the city works twenty four hours, and are put on high alert. Anwar, with his wife Fathima (Ramya Nambeeshan) and children are also under the eyes of the serial killer who also seems to have a helper. The killers seem to be masters of disguise, and has everything planned from zero, with each step leaving nothing behind for the police. The clues that seem to lead to them only ends up being misleading. As death lurks around the corner, it is up to law and enforcement to take back control and make the civilians feel safe. But that would need taking more than the usual path, and this divergence might be a red herring left by the killers – can they rise above this at some point and stop the killing spree?

The defence of Anjaam Pathiraa :: The movie nicely brings the tale of serial killing together, and the elements of shock and twists are nicely brought into the tale, especially in the first half. There is a certain amount of suspense at work here right from the beginning. To bring the terror to the screen, the movie nicely uses the darkness, even the quick return of lighting is used to bring a startling effect. The creepy masks and their quick appearance out of nowhere could provide something new. By the interval, we have enough to know that this is a game in which the serial killers will be tough to beat, and it is here that movie has its full strength – nobody would want to leave during the interval as the need to know further is always there. It also has to be noted that the movie does have some funny moments in store in between the serious moments, and all the tension which has been ruling the big screen from the beginning to the end.

The claws of flaw :: The movie’s strength in the first half is not maintained in the second half, as the latter part of the second half is rather predictable, and by bringing the element of a planned revenge, it losses out in the psychotic side. Such a predictability which seems to be like finding unnecessary meaning for the lotos eaters is rather unnecessary. Having a smart psychopath without a clear motive for the rational human was always the better choice, as that would bring chaos to darkness, and keeps the lights away all the time. After all, Anjaam Pathiraa is no Memories either, as such a brutal strength is not there, not with the protagonist or with the antagonist. The movie could have also had a better background score, even though at some points, it is good – at that point, it could have been there for longer. The sequence involving the ripper could have also been there for more time.

The performers of the soul :: Kunchacko Boban leads the way well here. There is no heroic style entrance with heavy background music for him here, and it is the beauty of his work here – there is no pretending to be the superhero star anymore unlike what was shown in another movie’s trailer which was showed in the beginning in an absurd state. It is certainly not the usual kind of role for him, but there is no staying behind here. He doesn’t play the police role, but this role of the psychologist assisting police is no less investigator. There are some interesting dialogues in store for him too. His previous work, Virus was a different kind of a thriller in which he was only playing a part. Ramya Nambeeshan is someone whom we don’t see in Malayalam movies much these days, and it is nice to see her in the movie, playing the wife of the protagonist. She was one actress who could have been in more movies, and it is something I felt long ago.

Further performers of the soul :: Unnimaya Prasad who is best known for two short time high impact characters in Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Parava also comes up with some of the best of moments leading the investigation team. Jinu Joseph plays a rather calm police officer with a twist in store, and this avatar definitely feels different. Sreenath Bhasi has a good run here as the hacker always looking for something more. There is also a funny side to his character, which comes out at times. Indrans’ screen time felt rather less, as his ripper character steals the moments in the beginning with ease. Mathew Thomas, even though there only for a short period of time, leaves a mark, after Thannermathan Dinangal and Kumbalangi Nights. We also have a good number of supporting actors who has contributed to this movie, which needed a lot of it.

How it finishes :: The director Midhun Manuel Thomas has been known for light-hearted movies like Ann Maria Kalippilaanu, Aadu and Alamara, but it can be clearly seen that the feeling has changed now. Anjaam Pathiraa could find no difficulty in going on to become the first interesting Malayalam movie of the year, and it was clear from the dark shades of the trailer too. This is not just the first movie of the year 2020, but also the write-up about the first movie around here that deserves your attention. May the best of films be there in the theatres this year, and let us have some of the best of the decade as it comes to an end with 2020. As far as this movie is concerned, I would say that those movies which deal with horror and thriller elements have a lot of work to do, and it is to be noted that these have worked very well, and is worth the appreciation for the effort.

Release date: 10th January 2020
Running time: 144 minutes
Directed by: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Starring: Kunchacko Boban, Ramya Nambeeshan, Unnimaya Prasad, Jinu Joseph, Mathew Thomas, Harikrishnan, Indrans, Sreenath Bhasi, Sharafudheen, Divya Gopinath, Sharafudheen, Jaffer Idukki, Abhiram Pothuval, Sudheesh

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Athiran

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1967, and a worried Lakshmi (Shanthi Krishna) finds their family murdered while Nithya (Sai Pallavi) is seen playing with a thread. The situation seems to points to her as dangerously abnormal and a murderer. Five years later in 1972, Dr. MK Nair (Fahadh Faasil), a psychiatrist from Trivandrum Medical College is sent to check out the activities in a mental asylum situated far away from civilization, between the trees in the wilderness. This grand mansion which was built by the British has limited access to other places. Dr Benjamin Diaz (Atul Kulkarni) who served in the 1972 India-China War and a master hypnotist is the resident doctor as well as the owner of the asylum. He is very strict in his methods and doesn’t like anyone from outside making a visit. Renuka (Lena) is in control of things there, and Avarachan (Nandhu) provides further help from outside.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: There are strange incidents happening in the asylum. The inmates include Anna Maria (Leona Lishoy), a religious person, P Subrahmanya Iyer (Vijay Menon), an English professor, Vadakkedath Kamala Lakshmi (Surabhi Lakshmi), a person of too much concern for everyone around her, Jeevan Thomas (Sudev Nair), and a happy and strange romantic person. But it turns out that there is one more patient, and she is hidden and locked away in a cell, considered to be extremely dangerous and uncontrollable – the person is none other than Nithya who lives a restrained life, hostile to those who very rarely come to visit her. The newly arrived doctor realizes that there is something strange about her as well as the working of the hospital – he even has some dream visions and hallucinations when he is there, but some of them might be close to reality.

The defence of Athiran :: We have had a good number of psychological thriller, but after the 1990s, not many movies could rise above a certain level, and Athiran comes as a breath of fresh air – we always needed our own Shutter Island, and this one becomes the same, but with its own different twists. A Cure for Wellness is another movie we are reminded of. There is a similar beautiful setting here just like that island in Shutter Island and the mountain ranges in A Cure for Wellness, as the camera nicely brings all of the same to perfection. There is a Gothic building out there, and has a similar setting as one would have seen in movies like Crimson Peak, even though in the absence of the ghostly presence, is not used to the maximum – we had already seen 9 using a similar setting. The songs and the picturization also prove to be really attractive, and the suspense is maintained until the end as we remain thrilled.

The claws of flaw :: The similarities to A Cure for Wellness and Shutter Island can’t be ignored. There is another movie called The Ward which deals with a similar situation. All these are set in places dealing with “wellness” of the patients, and has similar moments of horror related to treatment procedure, along with secrets there that should be revealed. There is clear influence in bringing a certain Hollywood style, also resembling the Victorian Gothic Model, but the success of the movie is that it has done the same really well, and local elements have been mixed with some skill behind the same. We still have the feeling that something missing in there, and the other patients’ characters could have been better developed. With a setting like this, there was hope for bringing some intensely terrifying moments, but it is not there. Nights in a mental asylum far away from civilization can always bring more, and so can a mentally unstable murderer of family members.

The performers of the soul :: Fahadh Faasil is one actor who has come up with minimum guarantee in the last few months, and we look at his previous movie to make sure about that. His last three ventures in Malayalam movie industry were Kumbalangi Nights, Njan Prakashan and Varathan, all three gaining both critical and commercial success. These movies also had less hype in comparison to the others, and Athiran actually came up with no real boost in marketing – I came to know about this movie very late, and even then I didn’t know that this was a Malayalam movie; the film survived with people’s opinions. It is to be noted that there is a certain change that comes across the character he plays in each of the four movies including this one. One can also note that Fahadh has done a fantastic job here as the main character in a psychological thriller – playing a character in a mental asylum wouldn’t come easy, whether the role is of a mental patient or not.

Further performers of the soul :: Sai Pallavi has returned to Malayalam movie industry once again, and it called for a change, a welcome one, as there is no dance performance around here. She is the kind of actress who can do this role so well, as she showed such signs in Kali itself, even though it was not needed then. Well, here she excels in portraying the character with autism and more. This one is her best performance in the industry so far, clearly better than Premam, and surely better than that which didn’t really matter in the miserable Kali. Atul Kulkarni who has come up with some memorable performances in Malayalam movies before, brings a strong antagonist. Leona Lishoy, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon and Sudev Nair who have their moments as the patients never really get going though, with no real mention about their tales of the past. Lena and Nandhu gets limited in their roles, Shanthi Krishna is there for a few minutes. Renji Panicker is impressive when he is there.

How it finishes :: Athiran is one movie which has been running for so long despite releasing without making much of a noise. One month later, it can be seen that the movie is still going strong, despite Avengers: Endgame taking the most number of viewers, creating the collection record like never before, overtaking Titanic and closing in on Avatar, the effect being seen here too. Athiran, one month later, is challenging the bigger movies like the crowd puller Oru Yamandan Prema Katha and the critics favourite Uyare. It is nice to see a psychological thriller doing such a job, as it has been the genre, with a fee exceptions not bringing the major part of audience to the theatres, especially the family audience. But things have changed now, and Athiran has stood tall when the opportunity came, and it does so in Hollywood style, in a grand environment.

Release date: 12th April 2019
Running time: 136 minutes
Directed by: Vivek
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Sai Pallavi, Lena, Sudev Nair, Leon Lishoy, Prakash Raj, Renji Panicker, Atul Kulkarni, Shanthi Krishna, Nandhu, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

9

What is the movie about? :: Dr Albert Lewis (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is a very successful astrophysicist who have had a love for science since his childhood. He didn’t have that family life that he wanted though, as his wife Annie (Mamta Mohandas) died with childbirth, and his son Adam (Master Alok) is a known menace in the neighbourhood as well as school, leading to multiple change of educational institutions. As Adam was involved in another incident which left his cousin on a wheel chair, even the relatives are hostile to the boy. With Adam being expelled from his school in the middle of the term for another fight with a student, he gets an assignment from his mentor, a world famous scientist, Dr Inayat Khan (Prakash Raj). The idea is to watch, analyze and record the scene of a huge comet from the Himalayas, where it would bring a different scene altogether. With his team mates and Adam, he reaches the place, and stays at a remote guest house owned by his mentor.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: It turns out that this comet is not your usual one. It produces an Electro Magnetic Pulse which would disrupt the modern day life – there would be no electricity, internet or mobile phone; modern day vehicles wouldn’t be able to provide transportation. It would be more or less like going back to nature, without having those facilities which people hold dear. There is panic all around, and Albert who reaches the seemingly Victorian-styled huest house makes sure that there are enough candles and lanterns. He also makes some adjustments to an older vehicle and makes sure that it works even though the usual transportation shuts down. As the shut down occurs, the sky turns red. Albert who is watching the amazing sight comes up again a stranger, Ava (Wamiqa Gabbi) who is lost in the woods. He takes her to the guest house, but there seems to be something special about her. She seems to be holding on to some secrets – what would they be?

The defence of 9 :: There are so many things being dealt with, in this movie which is a combination of genres. The horror in this movie is nicely done, and we have the same with a seemingly Victorian Gothic setting which has everything for a horror thriller. The supernatural, death and decay, ancient beliefs, unsolved mysteries, nightmares, hallucinations, large old building with only a few people, darkness, loneliness, fear – they are all there, and at the same time we wonder if some alien terror is going to be unleashed or if the world is going to end. The mystery element is also nicely made up, and it goes right through the movie. The darkness is the most beautiful thing in the movie, and you fall in love with night here. There is quality in how the setting has been used, with the beautiful as well as creepy visuals; the sound effects are also lovely. There are many Hollywood movies that comes to your mind, and also that same quality.

The claws of flaw :: The story here is not that easy to digest for everyman. It just puts too many things in here and also has an ending which is left open as well as unclear. It is also too long and has too many scenes with the apparition of one dead wife appearing, a case of terrible repetition which could have been avoided. The ending could have also been more direct – even though having multiple interpretations is not that bad, the horror feeling that was established earlier should have been allowed to continue to make an impact and leave the theatre with the audience. After all, the audience have gone through all these, and one of those interpretations just nullify the same. It is the supernatural of the movie that rises above everything else here, and the same should have taken full control and came to a conclusion in the end – well, when there is a chance to go full Gothic in a setting like this, I would take it.

The performers of the soul :: Prithviraj takes another divergence and another risk with this movie, but this doesn’t trouble him that much because he has been to such a situation before. He has played the protagonist looking for answers, who would be wandering through mystery and horror in different films. We have seen him in the dark flicks like Memories, Adam Joan7th Day and Ezra, making nice impact. The Hollywoodish feeling that he maintained even in last year’s Ranam and Koode are also to be remembered. Prakash Raj is just there for some time, and there is just him going through the long talk and no action. Mamta Mohandas is just there for the song with very short flashbacks and to keep coming back as apparitions in stylish clothing – there could have been more. Mamta is not someone who is to be restricted to that, as we feel that the flashback is more relevant than ever in this movie.

Further performers of the soul :: At the same time, Master Alok brings a fine performance as the child in trouble, and we see something that makes him right for the genre. Back after the much appreciated Godha, Wamiqa Gabbi is fantastic as the mysterious girl who turns out to be more than just a damsel in distress troubled by a piece of comet. There are fine moments which reflects the creepy side is a beautiful way, as she walks through the huge building as lights are turned off, staring outside from a bath-tub and coming up with a mysterious, creepy smile on more than one occasion. She seems to blend into the Gothic horror so well, and I will be glad to see her in a full-horror movie. You look here, and feel that she could be in something like Crimson Peak. Rahul Madhav and Adil Ibrahim are there in smaller roles, and we also see some unknown actors who are there for a short period of time leaving something nice behind.

How it finishes :: It can be seen that 9 goes through different genres at the same time. There is science fiction and the supernatural, as the movie is a psychological horror thriller with a scientific background. It is the first big movie to combine all these well, and one of the first movies to deal with some science fiction of such grand scale. There are questions that go unanswered with the same, and there are moments when we feel that the grip is lost – it could have surely been better, but as it is now, makes an interesting watch. 9 is surely an effort in the right direction, and we can hope to have more movies of the same kind after this. If a combination like this can have everything in the right quantity and quality, there is no limit to how good it can be. Until such a movie is made, we can go to the theatres and enjoy 9 this week.

Release date: 7th February 2019
Running time: 149 minutes
Directed by: Jenuse Mohamed
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Prakash Raj, Wamiqa Gabbi, Mamta Mohandas, Master Alok, Tony Luke, Vishal Krishna, Rahul Madhav, Adil Ibrahim

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Pretham 2

What is the movie about? :: Famous mentalist John Don Bosco (Jayasurya) is spending his time in peace at Varikkasseri Mana a.k.a. Varikkumanchery Mana, one of the traditional Brahmin houses located at Manissery, a village in Ottapalam, Palakkad. Situated in an area of natural beauty in a plot of about four acres, John feels that there is something strange and mysterious about the place. With a history of popular movies being shot there including Devasuram, Aaraam Thampuran, Raappakal, Drona, Simhasanam, Sufi Paranja Katha, Thooval Kottaram, Valliettan and Manthrikan, a group of youngsters decide to come there to shoot a short-film. They are from a Facebook group known as “Cinema Pranthanmar”, which is known to be a perfect place for movie lovers from all around Kerala. This particular adventure could feed the movie lover in them more than anything else.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: The team is lead by Tapas (Amith Chakkalakal) who comes up with this idea of having a short film. He plans to create this film, and run a premiere after inviting all the members of the group which goes into thousands. Joining him are those members whom he had never met, and used the group with their fake names; the first one to join him is the man known in the group by his fake id Mangalassery Neelakandan, Ramanandan (Sidhartha Siva) who is into hotel business in the Middle East and is a big Mohanlal fan. They are joined by Karuthamma, originally Anu (Durga Krishna) who is a nurse and Shahrukh Khan, originally Niranjana (Saniya Iyappan) who is a professional dancer. The last person to join them in Joffin (Dain Davis) who has run away from home due to personal problems with his father.

So, how does the ghost come into picture this time? :: The problem at the resort of Denny Kokken (Aju Varghese), Priyalal (Sharafudheen), Shibu Majeed (Govind Padmasoorya) and Yeshu (Dharmajan Bolgatty) was one which haunted John for a long time, and here, with the youngsters making the short-film, more trouble arrives, and the supernatural only gets stronger. The youngsters are attacked by some strange forces and nobody seems to know what is happening. Their first guess is that it is the spirit of the person who owned and lived in the mansion, but it turns out that there is more than what meets eye at the first place. There is a connection which is making the spirit act there, and John has to begin with it and reach the end soon, before it is too late and someone gets into serious trouble. But it is not that easy, as the clues are less, and the answer to their questions are somewhere else.

The defence of Pretham 2 :: Pretham 2 is indeed a better movie than its predecessor which had too many terrible jokes, even though the final moments were nice for that one too. Pretham 2 has the advantage in almost every field including its setting and cast. The idea is also smarter here with the social media, internet, fake identity and online frauds at the centre. The messages about the possible dangers of being friends with fake ids and trusting strangers without names are all shown in this particular flick. The mystery is nicely solved here, and there is no exaggeration here with the elements of the other world – the first image of the spirit that we see is in the form of a shadow, and the creature from the other world doesn’t overdo things as the happenings would be in a usual horror movie. The thrills are strong, and there are also some nice jokes – we are left guessing with the suspense factor being very high till the end.

The claws of flaw :: Pretham 2 never really rises above most of the problems of its predecessor, as it follows too similar a path, and the spirit also follows the same pattern, as we see no attempt to deviate much. We would wonder if so many spirits are looking forward to have the mystery behind their deaths investigated. There seems to be no other plan for the people on the other side. Some jokes are just repetitive, especially the talks regarding those old Mohanlal movies. The movie could have also used more scares, as the film itself is marketed as a horror flick, and the name itself suggests the same. The movie could have surely used darkness better, and the ghostly presence itself could have done more, at least when the youngsters were alone. Pretham 2 doesn’t try to frighten people much, and that is not acceptable at a time when Hollywood is running movies like The Conjuring, The Nun, Annabelle, Insidious, Sinister and others.

The performers of the soul :: Jayasurya is back with an avatar to remember, unlike Punyalan Agarbattis 2 and Aadu 2 which struggled to live up to its predecessors with all its characters. His mentalist is a rock solid character, and this time, he is better than last time too. Saniya Iyappan, with her flexible dance moves, is a joy to watch here, and has a clear improvement in acting from her previous movie Queen, which was one of the worst collection of elements deserving not to be called a movie at all. She can certainly bring variety to the Malayalam cinema, as her skills are yet to be used in the best possible ways. Durga Krishna after Vimaanam, gets one nice role to perform, and she does that well. Dain Davis and Sidhartha Siva gets to bring the elements of fun well, even though the latter gets too much of Mohanlal dialogues from those old movies, which become too repetitive. Amith Chakalakkal is very good with his character which is rather solid.

How it finishes :: Pretham 2 holds the advantage over Thattumpurath Achuthan, Ente Ummante Peru and Odiyan for this Christmas, and by being a smart horror-mystery-comedy-thriller, it is many things in one movie. With Jayasurya at the centre as one character who has a certain iconic status, and the new faces like Saniya Iyappan who has become another name for dance, Durga Krishna in her second movie, the crowd favourite Dain Davis and others, Pretham 2 makes the Pretham franchise much better than what it was in the first movie. It also leaves a few messages about the problems due to uncontrolled use of social media by teenagers, the dangers that lie behind the fake ids in Facebook, possibilities of different kinds of frauds by online groups looking for easy money etc among others. Pretham 2 makes Christmas a lot of fun, and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas. Enjoy the holidays!

Release date: 21st December 2018
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: Ranjith Sankar
Starring: Jayasurya, Saniya Iyappan, Durga Krishna, Dain Davis, Amith Chakalakkal, Sidhartha Siva, Sreejith Ravi, Jayaraj Warrier, Aju Varghese (cameo), Sharafudheen (cameo), Govind Padmasoorya (cameo)

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Neerali

What is the movie about? :: Sunny George (Mohanlal) is gemologist who works for a reputed firm. He is an expert in the science dealing with natural and artificial gemstone materials, and is considered to be someone at the top of the company heirarchy with his experience and connections. Working at Bengaluru, he only makes some visists back to Kerala when possible. His wife, Molykutty (Nadhiya Moidu) is pregnant with twins after a long wait, and as the date approaches earlier than expected, it calls for an urgent visit back home. The other two girls in his life, Naina (Parvatii Nair) and Lekshmi (Megha Mathew) are attracted to him, and the former is so attached to him that she is not willing to let him go. But Sunny sneaks out of the office and travels to Kerala in the pickup truck of Veerappa (Suraj Venjaramoodu) who has his own problems. To add to this, they are quietly followed by a team of goons lead by Rajan (Dileesh Pothan).

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: They are traveling through the highranges, and all of a sudden, they come across someone crossing the road, and while trying to save the man, hits on the side of a truck, leading to Veerappa losing control of the vehicle. They go all the way down, and stops at the edge of the cliff further below the road. The two are stuck inside the vehicle, with just the back tyres stuck on a log. With the front side of the pickup truck suspended in the air, they have no way of getting out. Veerappa is seriously injured and cannot move, while Sunny’s attempts to get back to the cliff bear no fruit. Veerappa’s mobile is stuck in a precarious position while Sunny’s mobile has no outgoing facility because of Lekshmi forgetting to pay the bill despite being assigned the task. The two incoming callers Naina and Molykutty are in no mood to hear what he has to say as the former thinks that his intention was always to cheat her and the latter feels that she is going to die. Is there a chance for escape though?

The defence of Neerali :: A good survival thriller is something that we have all lacked for a long time – Hollywood had so many of them including The GreyThe Shallows, The Martian, Everest, Gravity, 127 Hours, The Revenant, Buried and others, while Bollywood had that less known little flick known as Trapped. There are moments that has us on the edge of the seat, and the question mark about more than one thing is always present. We also have interesting questions being asked here, about relationships and on what it takes to survive, even though they are not taken that much further. There are moments when movie go a little philosophical, and we see a little bit of magic realism with the protagonist’s father making an appearance with a gun pointed at him. There is no heroism from the protagonist this time, and it is a clear bonus, and having a the main character as a helpless and rather realistic one is always better than having those supercops and superfighters. The visuals are nice too.

The claws of flaw :: We can see that Neerali was aiming for more, but it is not that much there as a survival movie – so many things could have added to this tale of survival, and we could have had the protagonist facing more, and getting out of all those troubles in a believable way. We know how well the mobile phone can be used in a survival thriller as proven by the movie Buried. The idea to bring back the Nokketha Doorathu Kannumnattu model with Mohanlal and Nadhiya is still something to be questioned, as all the references fall flat, and fails to make any positive impact – the same only gets irritating. The first half had actually promised more than what the second half could deliver. Adding some better music would have been nice too. There are also a few things that are left untouched in the end, and one is left wondering if it was done intentionally, and if it was done so, one has to wonder about its effect.

The performers of the soul :: Mohanlal does a great job as the protagonist in peril as expected, and it is on him and his character that the whole thing is centered on. Its own his actions that most of the happenings in the movie proceeds – the decisions that he make would decide not just his life, but also that of others. We see the helplessness as well as the abilities nicely reflected here. We would have still wanted to see him as a more close to life character here though. Suraj Venjaramoodu is the other character whom we see here with Mohanlal for more time that anyone else, as the traveler and partner in distress, hanging above death staring from underneath. His character isn’t given that much of a depth, and we know him mostly from the dialogues made in the vehicle. He looks good here, and the kid who plays his daughter has also done a natural job. But we know that Suraj could have had more with at least some nice dialogues inside the pickup truck hanging from above.

Further performers of the soul :: Nassar has an appearance which last a few minutes while Dileesh Pothan is wasted in a role which doesn’t go anywhere – something that we don’t see with him on the screen often. Nadhiya Moidu is the biggest disappointment in this movie, as the pair never connects to the audience and the same can be said about her character – it is clearly overdone, and we feel that her presence is more as a necessary pregnant character rather than anything else. There is nothing good that she adds to the movie, and Girly Mathew of Nokkatha Doorathu Kannumnattu gets the bad name because of the attempt to drag that feeling into this flick in which the same doesn’t belong at all. Parvatii Nair does her job really well though, and she seemed to blend in so well into this character with certain problems for herself. Megha Mathew who was there for only a few minutes also leaves a mark, as we notice the same early.

How it finishes :: We can see that Neerali ventures deep into that survival thriller territory, which Malayalam cinema industry hasn’t been that interested in exploring. With some more of imagination, the movie could have done very much better – this one is still a thriller with its moments, but more could have been achieved. Yet, we can hope that there will be more of similar movies to come, and that the genre could get a much needed boost. Next time, when someone makes an attempt at this, it could go deeper. Until then, let us be glad that this movie has made an attempt at variety, and could do without much of heroism or style from the protagonist, leaving us with more of a human world rather than that of strange superheroes made from the so called superstars. Neerali brings the divergence, and we appreciate the same.

Release date: 13th July 2018
Running time: 128 minutes
Directed by: Ajoy Varma
Starring: Mohanlal, Nadhiya Moidu, Parvatii Nair, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Dileesh Pothan, Megha Mathew, Saikumar, Nassar, Santhosh T Kuruvilla, Bineesh Kodiyeri

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Adam Joan

What is the movie about? :: Adam Joan Pothen (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is a rich planter living in the high-ranges of Kerala. His friends are all married, and the fact that his own brother Alan a.k.a. Unni (Rahul Madhav) fell in love and married Swathi (Bhavana), settling in Europe, got his mother worried about his ways. Adam is still content working with his plantations, which he is hoping to develop further, until he meets Amy Andrews (Mishti Chakraborty), the lead singer in a group performing in churches. They meet each other multiple times, and there is not much trouble in making her alcoholic father Andrews (Maniyan Pillai Raju) agree to their marriage. They travel to Scotland for their honeymoon, and rest of his family has also settled there. There, a tragedy occurs, and Adam has to be separated from his family. It is only years later, that they would meet again, and that would be on the occasion of another tragedy.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: One one of those usual days of Lent, right after the Holy Mass, Unni and Swathi has their child kidnapped by a group of masked men who kills Unni’s mother who resists. Adam who was about to come and visit them, arrives to attend his mother’s funeral, much to his dismay. Learning the news of the child’s abduction, he decides to stay, but his brother and wife wants him to go back home, which surprises him. The two decides to go on with their routine job leaving it to the cops on whom they put trust, but the police are also very less interested in the case – Adam is certainly not satisfied. From his best friend Syriac (Narain), Adam comes to know that the number of kidnapped children has been increasing in the last few years, and the police has had very limited success in tracking down those who were behind the same. While trying to do something about the missing child, he would stumble upon his own past, and there is something about a flashback which has events which have directly or indirectly lead to all these incidents.

The defence of Adam Joan :: You will witness quality on screen, and it doesn’t matter how you look at it. The technical side is indeed splendid, and the visuals of the Scottish countryside, whether it is the farmlands, the hills, the rivers, or the ruins, brings a mystical feeling – there are so many shots taken from a distance, and those taken from higher above will give you a wonderful feeling about the beautiful landscape of Scotland. There is no need for a better advertisement for the area as a tourist destination. The soundtrack is superb, and it nicely adds to the dark side of the movie, which only builds further as the movie progresses. How the makers have used the visuals, the music, as well as the cast to transform an average narrative to an interesting experience on the screen, is an achievement as well as a powerful statement about how much our industry has changed, and shifted the focus towards quality in even simplest aspects. You will see that even with a hero in protagonist, the focus is spread wide. There are also some twists to go with the same.

The claws of flaw :: You are sure to feel a certain lag in between for this movie, and most of it is during the earlier part of the second half, as the first half does end in an interesting manner, setting up things to go further with the latter part. When you see such quality with its shots on the big screen, you also expect the tale to get better and bigger by the end, but that doesn’t happen, with the investigation not getting its due completely. There is also the early destruction of romance, and the only lighter side of this movie is around that one super-hit song – the rest remains dark; you will also notice that even the incidents in the end happen in a darker setting. There are some elements of horror which the movie could have used, and we could have also had more terrifying sequences with the theme that the flick deals with. There was scope to add more thrilling sequences, but the movie chooses to lag on those occasions. This slow pace could have been avoided by decreasing the overall length of the movie.

Performers of the soul :: It is Prithviraj’s mass appeal as well as intensity that drives this movie right from the start – he begins well with emotional and romantic side, and goes on to portray that intensity around the dark side with a performance that will ascertain his place as the master of darker thrillers. You remember Memories and 7th Day which did the same, and this flick also makes it to that list. After two much talked about movies this year, Tiyaan and Ezra, he continues a good run – it is to be noted that there is also a Jewish touch in this movie as it was in the movie featuring the Jewish dybbuk. Even his protagonist never really overdo things as one would have feared – there is only one big action sequence in the end, which is rather stretched, but executed well. It seems that this genre will take him as a permanent player, and you will love some of the dialogue his character gets to deliver – like Liam Neeson of Taken. Still, there might be nothing as good as Memories.

Further performers of the soul :: Mishti Chakraborty is there only for only that super-hit song, and a few more scenes, and we sadly would have to wait more till we get to see more of her in Malayalam movies. She doesn’t get to come up with an impact like Wamiqa Gabbi did with Godha, with not much of a focus on her character other than being the love interest of the protagonist for a short interval of time – still, the song surely did some trick for her. Even though she is paired opposite Prithviraj, we see that the chance for performances go to Bhavana and Lena who get more to do with the twists in the tale. The former was last seen in Adventures of Omanakkuttan, and her character has more than what meets the eye, and so does Lena’s. It is also good to see Rahul Madhav getting more roles, as he supports well in this one. Narain does a good job, but it is rather a single dimensional role with one focus, and you will find just one reason for his character’s existence. He gets to bring the twists to the tale too.

How it finishes :: Jinu V Abraham, on his directorial debut, has brought a marvel on the technical side when you watch it on the big screen, and the same makes one forget its flaws. You might be reminded about some Hollywood movies, but when it is more related to the wonderful technical side than the rest, you will feel good. The competition that this movie has for Onam seems to be a lot, but one can safely say that this flick will be among the winners. There is no reason why you wouldn’t want to go on a virtual trip to Scotland, and at the same time, watch the dark side getting unleashed and being chased by our hopeful protagonist. The exact definition of what you would watch on the screen would be “quality”, and it is this quality that will separate this movie from the rest. I leave you with the beautiful song from the movie which went on to become a big hit. At the same time, I wish all of my readers a Happy Eid, as well as a Happy Onam in advance! 🙂

Release date: 1st September 2017
Running time: 160 minutes
Directed by: Jinu V Abraham
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Mishti Chakraborty, Bhavana, Lena, Narain, Rahul Madhav, Jaya Menon, Madhusudhan Rao, Maniyan Pillai Raju, Sidhartha Siva, Benny Bereal, Mark Strange, Danny Darren

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Mooniloraal

Vampire Owl: But there are only two of us.

Vampire Bat: When we are there, the presence of four can be seen.

Vampire Owl: I don’t understand. How can there be four when we are only two people?

Vampire Bat: You need to count the guardian angel too.

Vampire Owl: Doesn’t that make the total as three?

Vampire Bat: No, my guardian angel and yours. It makes a total of four.

Vampire Owl: Are you sure that vampires also have guardian angels? It is never mentioned in the books at the great vampire libraries?

Vampire Bat: Yes, guardian angels are provided without discrimination.

Vampire Owl: Is it a new guardian angel or is it the same as we had before we died and became undead?

Vampire Bat: You are surely angelophobic. The fear for angels is quite common in the case of owlish vampires.

[Gets some potato chips and three cups of Ceylon tea].

What is the movie about? :: The three are best friends – Sam (Don James), Jithu (Steve Antony) and the more philosophical of them, Vishnu (Johns Mathew) who is living with the realization that change is necessary, and will happen, as they ponder about their life at Winnipeg in Canada, far away from home. It is a friendship which has been going on for a long time, and is what they consider is forever. Sam and Vishnu meet a restaurant over a cup of coffee, after which they go on a ride in former’s car who tells his friend that their destination is a place where he hasn’t gone, but needs to go at some point. The road through which the car goes is something of scenic beauty, and they enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way, and Vishnu is interested in the surprise which is in store for him in between the busy and rather too modern life they are living.

So, what happens next? :: Their families need them to come back home leaving their life away from home and settle down at their hometown, but they have settled down rather too much to make their return. On their way, their car meets with an accident, but there seems to be no big problem after the collision. At the same time, Vishnu gets a call from Jithu talking about the death of Sam which had just happened in a car accident. This leaves Vishnu confused about the person who is with him in the car and their destination. A rather weird and frightening feeling comes up right from within him. He then shouts to get the car stopped and runs away only to reach a cemetery which has only fallen leaves and tombstones to give company. So, is it true that Sam had died in a car crash? If it is so, who is the one with him? Which kind of demons or spirits are Vishnu hiding from? What is the thing with being at a cemetery far away from the city?

Soul exploration 1: A case of reality and illusion :: Coming up with the tagline “The Strangest Imagination is Reality”, the movie exactly about the same, bringing a mystery in which one is doubtful about what is reality and what an illusion would be. Along with the illusions spread by media and fake news, we also have our own personal illusions which come back to us depending on the situations – on some cases, it is even bigger. The line between reality and imagination is so thin in so many cases that illusions tend to take over. We ourselves have had such feelings more than once, but we are hesitant to talk further about it in fear of the world. We live in that kind of a world where logic gets a better spot compared to imagination and creativity; money gets more value than values – it is a world which is closer to chaos than order, even if it pretends to hold on to the latter.

Soul exploration 2: Friendship and alienation in a land far away :: It feels strange being away from your roots, and even if it is to another city just a few hundred kilometres away, there is that feeling to get back home – the nostalgia and homesickness are things that humans usually can’t live without. It makes people do stranger things, and despite denying the same, there is that feeling about our own lands that come back – unless you are orcs forced to leave your world like in Warcraft, or humans looking for hope in new planets like in the case of Pandorum and Passengers. You have seen similar complications in the underrated Ivide too. In a land a long way away from home, it is friendship that matters the most, and here we have three of them, and their friendship which has something strangely working within – it is what becomes nicely solved by the end. Alienation in an alien land is another level, when you look at it.

How it finishes :: Not to be confused with the 2006 movie Moonnamathoral, Mooniloraal is a short-film which keeps you wondering about what is to happen next. It is the perfect example of another short-film which is smarter than a good number of those full-length movies which have been arriving in the theatres with the labels of being thrillers. Malayalam short-films are coming up with more ideas these days, and Mooniloraal is the reflection of something that has even enough to be made into a full-length movie, as we notice the friendship, thrills and twists maintained in the right balance bringing the clarity between the two, but certainly not radically ending the cycle – it is fittingly established that there are a few things that will never end. Mooniloraal from Triune Productions is the kind of movie that brings the twists nicely, but not without leaving clues – the final twist brings things together, and we once again understand that there is more than what meets the eye.

[Walks into the balcony with another cup of tea].

Vampire Owl: This is why I told you that I am not going to the lands of the dark elves even if it is on a diplomatic mission.

Vampire Bat: Dark Elves play no role in such cases.

Vampire Owl: Dark Elves use dark magic to cause disruptions in the bridge connecting life and death, leaving some souls trapped in between. It is a crime.

Vampire Bat: But how is it related to this short-film?

Vampire Owl: Didn’t you see the supernatural forces affecting even technology? It is something which only the Dark Elves can do, joining magic with science.

Vampire Bat: You don’t have any proof for that. The other world always finds a way.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but when they are aided by Dark Elves, it is easier. As the Wood Elves, or the High Elves – they will tell you the stories.

Vampire Bat: There is caste-related violence going on between the three groups of elves – do you think that any of them will tell you the truth about the other?

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that they are no more united against the joint forces of orcs and goblins?

Vampire Bat: Well, you need to read The Great Vampire Imperial Times at some point. These days, they even have a special offer for free coffins.

[Walks into the silence of darkness].

Release date: 25th January 2017
Running time: 19 minutes
Directed by (DOP): Jessay Gopuran
Starring: Don James, Steve Antony, Johns Mathew, Rosamma Nelson (voice)

Watch the movie Mooniloraal here:

Other recommended short-films from India: Red Jacket, Mangalyam Thanthunanena, Moonnamathe Vazhi, Invisible Actor, Grace Villa, Culprit, Ima, Mrithyumjayam.

<— Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Ezra

ezra-2

Vampire Owl: Malayalam movies have always needed more horror movies.

Vampire Bat: This has come after a long wait too.

Vampire Owl: Do you remember the last time we really loved a Malayalam horror movie?

Vampire Bat: I am not sure about that. We have been loving the Hollywood horror only.

Vampire Owl: I heard that it has a little bit of Jewish culture in Kerala.

Vampire Bat: And that it was also going to be dubbed into more than one other language?

Vampire Owl: I hope one or two vampire languages are added.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that this one will be different. It is evident from the poster and also from what people talk about it.

Vampire Owl: Ghosts need to be shown different, because they are all not the same.

Vampire Bat: Well, maybe this is the answer to the prayers of many such spirits.

[Gets the tickets with masala tea and caramel popcorn].

What is the movie about? :: Ranjan Mathew (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is an orphan and a successful professional working in Mumbai. After falling in love with an interior designer Priya Raghunathan (Priya Anand) who is also based in Mumbai, they get married against the wishes of her parents. One and half years later, he gets a transfer to Cochin, and despite Priya’s reluctance to move from the city which had become a part of her, they relocate to the new place, which is a mansion-like old house rented to them upon the recommendation of Father Samuel (Vijayaraghavan) who is not just a priest, but also Ranjan’s uncle. Ranjan’s company is dealing with disposing the nuclear waste from the nuclear reactors in South India, and he is in charge of the operations. Meanwhile, A.C.P. Shafeer Ahammed (Tovino Thomas) is tired of investigating a strange murder in an antique shop which leaves no clue.

So, what happens next? :: As Priya has a lot of free time, she tries to do some interior work for their new house and buys some interesting items from the shop of Moosa (Alencier Ley Lopez) who had managed to bring a few new things of interest from the house of a Jew who died without a heir in the country, as everyone had left for Israel. After getting a box from the shop and opening it, things begin to change, as Priya sees a creepy figure in the mirror as well as the wardrobe, and Ranjan hears footsteps from the roof – and more spooky things follow. As Father Samuel finds Jewish inscriptions on a strange box, he advises Ranjan to consult Rabbi David Benyamin (Babu Antony) who resides in Mumbai. As Ranjan comes to know that Priya is pregnant, he becomes more desperate, but David’s death follows, and now the only hope seems to be in the form of Rabbi Marcus (Sujith Shanker) who has arrived at Cochin.

The defence of Ezra :: There is variety without doubt in Ezra, and the same can be said about the quality displayed in this movie. The visuals are really well-used here to create the advantage, and the darkness as well as some spooky elements are created well with the use of sound effects, and these work really well in the first half to make us interested in the second. There is also a lot in the story told here, unlike the other horror movies, and the creature that this flick chooses here is not among the usual ones, as the myth used is something not many people around here have known before. The use of a perfect setting and antiques happen to be something that works for this flick more than any other horror movie. There is also one twist that happens by the end, even though it is the only big surprise in the movie, and could have been presented in a better way. The songs are good, especially “Lailakame”.

The claws of flaw :: The movie does get a curse, and it happens in the second half, as many other movies – this evil spirit doesn’t really make that much impact as it should in the latter part, and the final exorcism, brings nothing huge. There were so many possibilities with this movie, and the infinite chances are not used at all – it is kind of strange that the movie doesn’t bring the special ingredient; there were so many opportunities and Ezra hesitates to think out of the box, even with a spirit from inside a box. As we see the characters watching The Conjuring 2 on television, one has no doubt about one movie which has inspired this one. But Ezra has so much of hesitation in unleashing the terror – the viewers find so many situations which could have been scarier, but the movie doesn’t seem to find the need to bring huge scares. Also, at one point, you feel that this is the Odette Annable starrer The Unborn, but then it is not; there is just the dybbuk and the pregnancy in common.

Performers of the soul :: In a movie that has Prithviraj as the protagonist, it is him who leads the way – it is the first half that gets the best of him with a simple and rather natural touch to the proceedings – not that much with the final scenes though. Priya Anand makes a Malayalam debut which the Keralites will remember. Sujith Shanker makes a surprising entry here, and in this role, most of us might not even recognise that he is the same person from Njan Steve Lopez and Maheshinte Prathikaram – it is quite solid work. Tovino Thomas, even though he is there for less amount of time, has his moments. Vijayaraghavan is fine there, but Babu Antony’s stay is cut short; the same is the case of Pratap K. Pothen and Alencier Ley Lopez who leaves the proceedings rather too early. Sudev Nair and Ann Sheetal has a nicely created flashback scene which is done fine.

How it finishes :: There is a little shortage of horror movies in Malayalam movie industry, and there is a lot of shortage in the case of good horror movies – the latter is also applicable to the Bollywood film industry too, which is why, for the Indian cinema as a whole, the requirement is for more good horror. There is no need for more drama and more romance – there is too much of the same already, and there is nothing closer to life than horror, in one way or the other. Therefore, Ezra‘s presence is something which has to be appreciated, and despite not using all the possibilities in the scary side, manages to be a horror movie with a difference as far as the Malayalam movie industry is considered. It is evident that the Malayalam movies are back after that break – and each release this year, including Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, Jomonte Suviseshangal, Fukri and Ezra have stayed different from each other.

Release date: 10th February 2016
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Jay K
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Priya Anand, Tovino Thomas, Sudev Nair, Vijayaraghavan, Sujith Shanker, Pratap K. Pothen, Babu Antony, Alencier Ley Lopez, Ann Sheetal

ezra

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Pretham

pretham

Vampire Owl: So, you are saying that the ghost has finally arrived.

Vampire Bat: Yes, it has come to provide us with its presence.

Vampire Owl: I heard that this one even has a mentalist?

Vampire Bat: Yes, one mentalist played by Jayasurya.

Vampire Owl: The looks do seem very interesting.

Vampire Bat: And when it is from the director who has brought us a number of good movies.

Vampire Owl: It has been a long time since we have seen an interesting ghost. I hope that this one will qualify to be there as a good one.

Vampire Bat: There is no reason to think that a ghost can’t be good. It will hurt the creature’s feelings.

Vampire Owl: Yes, we shouldn’t be judgmental towards the poor creatures from the other world.

Vampire Bat: Exactly. We need them too; they bring the balance in a boring human existence as we can’t always do the same.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with tapioca chips].

What is the movie about? :: Three youngsters Denny Kokken (Aju Varghese), Priyalal (Sharafudheen), and Shibu Majeed (Govind Padmasoorya) has begun their own business of a resort after working hard till their thirties. The three are best friends keeps remembering things from the past. They invest most of their money and also what they could manage from their ancestral wealth to buy this resort on which they have placed their hopes. They go through their lives with a crush on Suhanisa (Pearle Maaney) who learns dance at the resort, and doing only those things which are of interest, as they are no longer working under a person as they used to, and are completely out of control of their parents. Living a life full of enjoyment, and doing nothing other than those small things that come upon the resort, the three feels that this could go on forever.

So, what happens next? :: But as strange incidents begin to happen in the resort, they consult John Don Bosco (Jayasurya), a psychic and a mentalist who is referred to them by the local priest (Harish Perady) after failing to bring any change with the use of holy water. After making some attempts, he finds that the person behind all these is the restless spirit of Clara (Sruthi Ramachandran), who has a history that goes back to this resort when she last stayed here. Is John strong enough to get rid of this revenge-seeking ghost? What does she want from the three friends? Are they responsible for her death and the hopeless nature of her spirit? How can a mentalist work with a ghost who is not even interested in contacting and talking with humans? Is there something bigger hidden under the resort that should not be brought out?

The defence of Pretham :: This one successfully gets rid of the white saree idea which was too common in our horror movies – instead it goes for the black churidar which the spirit was wearing while committing suicide, which is fair as there are no shops supplying white sarees in the other world no matter which religious text we look at. The visuals are really good with the resort on the beachside, and we do get the horror comedy as we wanted to. There is just enough of both horror and comedy, not in high doses. The entertainment factor is there, varying for different people according to the tastes. With Jayasurya entering the scene as the mentalist, things get more interesting, and it is from there that the movie gets more engaging as a horror movie. In the end, we also get to see some of the cruel, sadistic face of the new generation youth which looks for success only, as it doesn’t matter for them that whose little dreams are crushed in the process – there is also the social issue.

Claws of flaw :: This one still happens to be predictable, and the message is also not brought to the screen in the best way. It is also not for the people who have watched so many horror movies and are looking for big scares – they are not much there for some reason. There were so many moments which could have had them, and we think that they are going to arrive, but that doesn’t happen at all. This one doesn’t really go on to become a special one with big difference, even with a mentalist as its main character, and that is a disappointment that Pretham doesn’t even try hard enough for the same. The comedy is also flawed at parts, with the adult jokes getting nowhere and some of them won’t connect with anyone at all. With a cast that has full ability to bring the fun, one has to wonder why that was not utilized to the maximum.

Performers of the soul :: As expected, Jayasurya is the pick of them all – it was already clear in the trailer, and it is reiterated very often in this movie from the first moment he shows up on the beach. Just like a wide variety of characters that he has played throughout his career, this one also leaves a mark, and it is due to him that the movie gets to be at a better strength all of a sudden. He comes, and delivers as it was expected of him – there is no question of doubting this man and the character played by him. He is no Sunny Joseph of Manichithrathazu, but a mentalist is indeed something new in a Malayalam movie. Among Aju Varghese, Sharafudheen and Govind Padmasoorya, it is the first two that create the fun here. Pearle Maaney looks strangely uncomfortable with the whole situation. Harish Perady is sadly limited to a smaller existence.

How it finishes :: One can be pretty sure that this won’t get to the level of Su.. Su… Sudhi Vathmeekam which was the last effort from the same director, but I would consider this to be surely better than Punyalan Agarbathis; in these three movies, it was all Jayasurya, and he is the pick yet again. This is surely a big escape from the past this year that had what might be Jayasurya’s worst movie which was IDI – Inspector Dawood Ibrahim. If you are looking for an enjoyable horror comedy, you are sure to have it; but there won’t be anything more than that – there is enough for some fun, and we get to take the messages home. Well, we don’t get many horror movies in Malayalam; and there are surely not enough ghosts. The Prithviraj Sukumaran-Tovino Thomas starrer Ezra might change this in a very different way, but until that, lets watch Pretham as we are not looking for The Conjuring or Insidious here.

Release date: 12th August 2016
Running time: 126 minutes
Directed by: Ranjith Sankar
Starring: Jayasurya, Aju Varghese, Sharafudheen, Sharanya Menon, Govind Padmasoorya, Sruthi Ramachandran, Pearle Maaney, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Sunil Sukhada, Sathi Premji, Harish Perady, Devan, Vijay Babu, Nyla Usha, Arya Rohit, Anjana Appukuttan

pretham

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Geethanjali

geethanjali (1)

What is Geethanjali? :: Even as all of us literature students have to answer this with Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, the collection which made him the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the only Indian to win the same so far. But as the Vampire Bat is not alive enough to talk about such great works of Indian literature, he is talking about a movie of the same name, not about the National Film Award-winning Telugu movie of the same name, but the recently released indirect sequel to the masterpiece which was Manichitrathazhu. It once again has Mohanlal as Dr. Sunny Joseph, one of the most loved characters in the Malayalam movie industry. Its been a long time since there was a Mohanlal movie too. Thanks to the hype and the well-made trailer, this became one of the most anticipated releases of the time, even when colliding with the other movies which released during the same weekend – Thira, Insidious: Chapter 2 and Ram-leela.

What is it about? :: There were two twins, Geetha and Anjali (both Keerthy Suresh) (together making the movie Geethanjali – if one of them was Chitra, the movie would have been Chitranjali, like the name of the studio which was used by the film?) and only Anjali is alive now, as the other is supposed to have committed suicide by jumping into the sea – and body not found. Anjali comes back to her home where she lived till her youth after her mother falls down from the terrace and goes into a comma. Her fiancee is also with him, and at the house, she has visions of her dead sister who also loved the same person. The vision of the ghost who seem to try to end her life to keep the lover away from her, makes life uncomfortable for the young lady. The fiancee Anoop (KP Nishan) calls Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) who recommends Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohan Lal) for the case, but the question remains if the future bride can remain alive or at least in his senses before the man arrives, and if he can solve this mystery before anything horrible happens.

The defence of Geethanjali :: It is hard to defend a movie which has been so much critically panned in a nation where even Krrish 3 gets positive reviews in another corner. Yes, this corner is famous for movies which usually get two or two point five out of five, and this miserly area doesn’t give away much. But let me tell you that Geethanjali scores with its environment, the almost effective scary scenes and the added twist, with the funny elements supporting it quite well. The cinematography helps the movie a lot, and this should be the first visually superior horror movies in Malayalam movie industry. The last good horror movie was Sahasram, released in 2010, starring Suresh Gopi. This doesn’t live up to that either, but the attempt is there, even if not original or with the right flow. Check out for Keerthy Suresh too, as she scores in her first movie – there is something called legacy, and she might be some of the few who might be proving it. There should be no comparisons to Manichitrathazhu though – who compares Dracula or Interview with the Vampire to Twilight? And as Alexander Pope says in Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot: “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”

The claws of flaw :: The worst thing that could happen to this movie is that it released with Thira, which is already a hit as it comes from a man who has cent percent success rate. I can remember that Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Thattathin Marayathu was a hit months before it released. I am also sure about watching it myself. The problem is that the more we praise that one, the more we tend to downgrade this movie. To add to it, there are the copied things, along with the ghost who looks like the daughter of the Avatar guy and The Ring girl. The mirror and the ceiling fan leaks instead of the television and there is a lot of hair like The Grudge. More details about similarities can be found in the details with spoilers section. One can say that the movie tried too much to be like Manichitrathazhu, and there is a big problem, for it can’t be the same as the world has changed and so did a lot of things. People are also looking for something of variety just like the original classic, and more flawless stuff including no small mistakes (like Armenian Orthodox Church cross having Latin inscriptions and there might be quite some concerning the twins).

Performers of the soul :: Mohanlal is the star psychatrist yet again, but this time he has less screen presence, and this surely won’t be the Dr Sunny that we remembers. He makes his entrance just before the second half of the movie, and once he enters, there is a lot of hope being built up – even as he lives up to it with his performance, there is not that much in the story. His combination with Innocent is very good and Swapna Menon is a pleasant surprise and a fine addition to the funny side of the movie. Harisree Ashokan also contributes in a lesser manner to the comic side. Nishan has a weak role, but does the romantic part very well, but not that much in he climax scene where the debutant Keerthy Suresh takes over with a wonderful performance to support the beautiful screen presence. She doesn’t go on to become another beautiful young actress who can’t act – she does incredibly well as the two sisters, too good for a debutant. Well, the beauty gets more than just the pass marks. Its her movie, as she is both the protagonist and the antagonist. Siddique and Nassar provides nice support, and Seema’s role is too limited – Madhu’s character was almost not needed.

Details with spoilers :: The story has so much in common with Nadiya kollappetta Rathri and Chaarulatha, the former was one of my favourites, and this impersonation for love was well performed by Kavya Madhavan and rightly investigated by the character of Suresh Gopi. The latter which was a remake of a 2007 movie Alone, had a lot of things which this movie now has in common. The twins who impersonate and kill for love was told as an investigative thriller in the first case, and as a pure ghost story in the second. The good thing is that they are not conjoined twins like the latter. Our movie has a psychological twist to the same, seemingly attempting to make it just like Manichitrathazhu, and also adding some comedy in between. If you haven’t watched the two movies, this shall be a new experience for you, or if you want to repeat the experience in another way, this movie can help. Those who don’t like the two movies much and don’t want any more of it, might want to skip it though. I felt so from some of the reactions from a few.  This is not going to be remembered in the later days like the well-crafted Devadoothan either.

How it could have been :: This could have been a lot better, there is no doubt about that. The ghost and the supernatural would have been better not shown and not observed by the family other than the girl. The blue ghost could have done better if shown just in the shadows without the support of water and the fallen hair. The sea on one side is a clear negative on a house which formerly made us feel that it is at a remote location on some hill or mountain. The darkness itself could have been an ally to a possible psychological thriller in this one. The songs might have done better if not coming up when not needed. The suspense could have been made more shocking even without the support of deaths. Mohanlal could have made an entry earlier. Overall, there should be no following the policy of the early classic, instead having some life of its own, keeping further distance from the movies which were used as inspirations. I would be surprised if even the C.I.D Moosa sequel can be any good considering the limited imagination involved with making sequels. Meanwhile, a horrible drop for this movie might discourage horror movies in Malayalam, and I am not going to stand that!

Release date: 14th November 2013
Running time: 150 minutes
Directed by: Priyadarshan
Starring: Mohanlal, Keerthy Suresh, KP Nishan, Swapna Menon, Siddique, Innocent, Ganesh Kumar, Nassar, Madhu, Seema, Harisree Ashokan, Chris Gayle Kuttappan, Suresh Gopi (cameo)

geethanjali copy

@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.