The Soul

Vampire Owl: Do you think that vampires can have an extra soul?

Vampire Bat: I don’t understand why one would require one as extra.

Vampire Owl: What if a soul is lost? We can use the other one.

Vampire Bat: The souls are not lost as long as we are living dead.

Vampire Owl: When did we start referring to the undead as living dead?

Vampire Bat: I am sure that we have always been the living dead.

Vampire Owl: Well, I wouldn’t argue as death is only the beginning.

Vampire Bat: There is no undead without the appropriate kind of death.

Vampire Owl: Maybe humans will also understand that death is the true solution.

Vampire Bat: They are less afraid to kill than to die, which is strange.

[Gets a mango cake and three cups of Munnar tea].

What is the movie about? :: Wang Shi-Cong (Samuel Ku), a very rich man and the founder of a medical firm developing cancer treatment based on ultra-modern technology is found murdered. His wife who has also remained a respectable figure, Li Yan (Sun Anke) is discovered to be holding the weapon used for the brutal murder, quite a strange knife-like blunt thing indeed. There are also some strange writings on the door and all over the walls. At the same time, Ah-Bao (Janine Chang), a detective is expecting a child very soon. Liang Wen-Chao (Chang Chen), her husband is having an advanced stage of cancer, and it doesn’t seem to get any better. His cancer seems to be spreading and resisting the existing modes of treatment, and the doctor gives them the advice to consider doing a RNA restoration technology. Liang, who has been working as a prosecutor, decides to join back, as a lot of money is required for his treatment – he had asked her to let him skip that costly treatment, but she has been very adamant in keeping him alive.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Ah-Bao is assigned the case of Wang’s murder, and Liang goes on to become the prosecutor once again, much to the surprise of his wife who was expecting him to take rest. Li Yang tells them that it was their son, Wang Tian-You (Erek Lin) who committed some strange rituals in the same room and murdered his father who had earlier disinherited him because of his strange and unacceptable behaviour. They remember that he only comes back home rarely, and has the same symbol which was seen in the room, tattooed on his body. He has a lot of magical symbols tattooed on his body, and talks about some particular gods and spirits which are not that well-known. He was heartbroken after his mother, the first wife of Wang died, and has been talking about vengeance since then. It seems that other than his wife, the dead man had left another inheritance as the next in line. The detective also understands that the dead man used to have different affairs with many women, which had ruined their world. The first wife also had enough information about hier husband’s life.

What lies beneath the secrets which are unveiled around here? :: There is also the talk about the first wife placing a curse on Wang before death, and about the second wife coming out of an orphanage, with no roots. But they do understand that this particular woman had changed a lot after coming to the mansion. In the beginning, she was very nice to everyone around, and very careful in her behaviour. It felt as if she wanted to be good to make an impression. But that seems to change soon, as they look through the CCTV cameras for some old footages. She wasn’t the person whom she used to be, as she even started talking to nothingness, which she understood as ghosts. They wonder if it was a case of possession or the result of some drugs which were introduced by the medical firm. A bigger surprise is that she who was a right-hander is now a left-hander. Is it science or some dark curse which is behind all of these? After all, isn’t science the modern necromancy? How many secrets can this particular world hold? There seems to be something really strange going on around here, and is anyone good enough to find the truth?

The defence of The Soul a.k.a. Ji Hun :: The movie never stops keeping us interested in the mystery of science or magic, whichever seems to surround a grand investigation. It does keep us guessing through its run, and is very much effective in doing the same. The twists are very much unpredictable, and with so many red herrings around, one only keeps wondering about how good are the characters who have figured it out inside the tale. At a specific point, you make a guess about the characters, and then you have to think differently about them. At one point, you feel that there is the talk about soul in its original form, but then all you see is science. You wonder about psychological problems and demonic possession at the same time. In the end, it is not anywhere close to what you were thinking in the early stages, and there is so much going on around there. Any more revealing would annihilate the beauty of the surprise and twists in here. The movie moves forward beautifully, as if it is poetry in motion, and the level of immersion of the audience that it provides is simply magnificent. The emotional side does help further in its movement forward – you do feel them running strong. The visuals and the music also remains extraordinary and contributes well to the dark beauty.

Positives and negatives :: The movie’s slowness also has a certain amount of beauty related to it, and we watch it move as if part of an elegy written in memory. Well, there is no doubt that it could have traveled somewhat a quicker path as it seems to be in need of being called a thriller rather than anything else – yet, it can be said that The Soul keeps us immersed around here, even without picking up the pace that much when it could have done the same. The details in each moment will still make sure that you are always attentive around here, and there are some top performers to support the same. Chang Chen gets into this character so well that we become attached to the same – there is a lot of immersion into the plight of the character taking place here, and that feels unbelievably realistic. In the beginning, one feels that Janine Chang is the one playing the protagonist, and even though she is not the one doing that, blends in perfectly, and excels in the emotional moments. Then there is Sun Anke who plays the woman in identity crisis with a lot of perfection – it is a role which requires a lot of dedication, and her different expressions are so much of the reflection of her calibre.

How it finishes :: The movie has one of the most complicated plots than any film has had in a long time, and it makes sure that we are always guessing. There has not been many movies which had our guesses going wrong by such a long way. By the end of the film, you are standing on a lot different ground than where you found yourself in the beginning. Well, the world of science and spiritual beliefs can both be strange enough, and this one makes use of both, while placing them in a corporate world where the only thing that reigns supreme is selfishness and a display of a fake “normal” image. I would consider this to be the best movie of the year and also the best film which I have found on Netflix among the last few years’ releases. Then, there is also those final questions which the movie leaves for all of us – what makes one a person? Is it the soul? In that case, where does the soul lie? In the memories of the brain or the emotions of the heart? Or is it something which has no real shape or size to be seen? Well, we will never know, that seems to be a surety. Until then, there are some fine Chinese movies to watch.

Release date: 29th January 2021 (China); 14th April 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Cheng Wei-hao
Starring: Chang Chen, Janine Chang, Sun Anke, Christopher Lee, Baijia Zhang, Erek Lin, Samuel Ku, Daniel Chang, Lu Hsueh-feng

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Intrusion

Vampire Owl: So, who is the real intruder around here?

Vampire Bat: Freida Pinto plays the one who goes through the intrusion.

Vampire Owl: I remember her from some of the interesting films of past.

Vampire Bat: Freida is indeed better than almost every Bollywood actress here.

Vampire Owl: Bollywood has never been known for quality in acting.

Vampire Bat: It has never been known much for the plot either.

Vampire Owl: There is nothing that I want in a movie than a good plot.

Vampire Bat: Well, they can give a good story, but not a good plot.

Vampire Owl: Well, they are limited in talent due to acting being family business.

Vampire Bat: You don’t inherit all skills just like that.

[Gets a vegetable puffs and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Breast cancer survivor and immigrant from India, Meera Parsons (Freida Pinto) and her husband, architect Henry Parsons (Logan Marshall-Green) have moved from Boston to an isolated area of New Mexico, as latter had designed a new house using all her skills. Meera continues to be concerned about the possibilities of cancer returning, as she finds something near her breast while showering. She tries to keep things secret from her husband, even though he has been very supportive and has made sacrifices throughout his career in the past. At night, after having dinner outside, they return only to find their home being broken into. Detective Stephen Morse (Robert John Burke) suspects that it is someone they knew as the laptops and mobile phones are the only things which are missing from the house. As they are basically in the middle of nowhere, there is nobody to call for some quick help, and he finally installs some security cameras to be sure.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Meera has another check-up and finds out that there is no signs of cancer returning, much to relief of both of them. But they wake up at night due to some strange noise, but they are not able to turn on the lights. He goes to check on the generator and finds out that it has been smashed. He finds out that there are intruders in the house, while Meera is tied up and gagged. They manage to escape with the men being shot down, while the intruders are also supposed to be responsible for the disappearance of a girl named Christine Cobb (Megan Elisabeth Kelly), all of them coming from the same family which lives in a poor neighborhood. Two of them died in the spot while the remaining person died later in the hospital. Meera remains in trauma after the incident, but Henry asks him to move on, as the last person also dies in the hospital. Meera wonders if there is something wrong, considering the way Henry was dealing with the situation, but there might be more than what meets the eye about the same. Will the two stay together after knowing the whole truth?

The defence of Intrusion :: The movie works as an effective mystery work rather than going the full thriller mode. There are secrets in here, and they are revealed as the movies progresses firmly. The location is really good, and we have the feeling of that this could be a perfect place for some strange and mysterious things to happen. We keep wondering if something is behind all of these, at all times, as clues are given to us at regular intervals. There is also the reflection of human inherent evil, even on people who are supposed to be not the bad guys. The tendency to be evil is shown as always there. The human mind is a paradise for evil, and as one goes through different situations, divergent ways of evil are released, as seen in this movie through seemingly perfect people. Most of the times, it looks like a standard, decent effect, even though it wouldn’t claim for a lot, with enough awareness on its own existence, and where the strengths lie. It goes on in a straight forward manner, with out ups and downs.

The claws of flaw :: The movie could have been made in a more thrilling way in comparison to how it has progressed as of now. We do have a guess about the twists which are to come in the end, and there are clues which we can understand better than the main character can. Even with its shorter run-time, the movie still feels long, as things do not pick up the pace at any moment, until the final revelation and realization. It doesn’t use the home invasion elements to advantage either, and the surprise element could have been strengthened, maybe with the use of better elements of shock. There could have been those moments which raised the level of the movie, but this one just manages to go on at the same level at all times. The movie doesn’t have enough to go this long, and one and a quarter minutes would have been enough for this one. One would wonder how this one would work if some more effects were added here, with lighting or with the sounds at night. There was chance for some horror elements, especially as this has the psychological elements – the home invasion could have easily been scary enough to make an impact.

The performers of the soul :: Freida Pinto has things in control here, and we know that she is capable of more than the usual Bollywood actors and actresses, most of them being there just because of their parents, uncles, aunties and grandparents. It is nice to be in quality movies and come up with a role of relevance every time, she seems to continue to do the same again and again. This movie is completely about her, as it is up to her to discover the secrets about what has been happening around here, especially a few things which are not going to make her happy in any way. This is something that good actresses rarely get in Bollywood, and she has another work to remember, rising above the overall strength of the movie itself. Logan Marshall-Green plays the next important role, and it is the one other role of significance that is there throughout the movie. The other characters are of very low significance, and one person who becomes important in the end is Megan Elisabeth Kelly, played well for a very short period of time.

How it finishes :: Intrusion manages to be interesting enough with Freida Pinto at the centre. There is no questioning her skills at any moment, but some opportunities are being missed out, as you look around here. Not to be confused with Intuition, which is a Spanish thriller, this one would focus on the location more than anything else to gain what it wants. It also provides the much known idea again, that things are not really what they seem, especially with the rich and influential people who wear the masks. Even though engaging in its own slower path, one has to remember that this is not exactly the home invasion movie or psychological thriller that you would expect, as this one has its own deviations. The short description and divisions into categories won’t do this one complete justice, as categorization needn’t be that exact. But you watch this one for Freida, and enjoy another ride which brings the surprise. After all, different tastes call for different kinds of surprises.

Release date: 22nd September 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 92 minutes
Directed by: Adam Salky
Starring: Freida Pinto, Logan Marshall-Green, Sarah Minnich, Robert John Burke, Yvette Fazio-Delaney, Clint Obenchain, Mark Sivertsen, Megan Elisabeth Kelly, Hayes Hargrove, David DeLao, Brandon Root, Bonita King, Josh Horton

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela

What is the movie about? :: Chacko (Lal) and Sheela (Shanthi Krishna) are a couple in the city who are going through their usual days. The former was working at Kuwait until a few years ago, and the latter is a Chemistry professor at the nearby college. While their youngest child Sarah (Ahaana Krishna) lives with them, their eldest child Mary (Srinda Arhaan) lives with her husband Tony (Siju Wilson) nearby. Their only son Kurien (Nivin Pauly) is working at London, and it has been some time since he last visited India. It is during one of these days that Sheela develops a doubt if she has breast cancer. The talk about the same frightens Chacko, who consults his good friend and dentist Varkichan (Dileesh Pothan). The man refers Chacko to a reputed doctor of a famous hospital in Cochin, Saiju (Saiju Kurup) who has cured many patients suffering from cancer. After consulting him and undergoing the tests, they confirm the same, that she does have stage two breast cancer.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: It is at the same time that Kurien returns to Cochin for spending a forced break, as Sheela had called and asked him to come as soon as possible without saying any reason. He gets the feeling that she had called him to get him married, as most of the other relatives of his age have been married already, and his siblings also share the same thoughts. The only other reason could be related to their grandfather, but he has been the same for years, and there is absolutely no change regarding his health. Chacko, who is afraid of the disease, struggles to even talk about it to his children – but one day, he manages to let them know the truth after a series of misunderstandings. Everyone in the family is shocked and sad, and are cent percent confused about what to do next. The family which had things going straight without any intermissions, gets a lot of thinking to do after that revelation.

And what else is to follow in the adventure in the land of crabs? :: Kurien’s only relief is his long lost friend Subbu (Krishna Shankar) whom he meets after a long time. Sheela tells her family to support her happily, but everyone remains sad and depressed. They decide to get a home nurse to look after the grandfather as Sheela is not well. Their search for one ends with Yesudas (Sharafudheen) whose conditions are agreed upon. Meanwhile, while taking his mother to one of the chemotherapy sessions, Kurien meets a girl from Bangalore named Raichel (Aishwarya Lekshmi) who had arrived in the hospital with her parents, as her father also had cancer. They become good friends, and Kurien feels very much attracted to her. Meanwhile, Sarah is also in love. Chacko keeps struggling to make himself adjust to the understanding and fear of his wife’s disease. In this newly confused world, the battle between chemo and the crab goes on.

The defence of Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela :: There are two sides to Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela – a humorous one and the emotional one. The humour is there in the movie all the way – the light-hearted side of this flick will make it a much loved title for this Onam season for the families. The emotional side is there, as the family is shaken by the unexpected trouble, and we see how they overcome the same, but never missing out on bringing a little comedy here and there. The balance which has been maintained here without letting the flick stumble into some kind of melodrama, is a remarkable achievement. The use of the right cast also makes sure that things work better. The movie leaves us with the message that it is the unexpected twist in life that makes us stronger, and it is the difficulties that makes us capable of more – positivity added there when the trap of hopelessness is present. Along with the same, it is once again re-iterated that family is that important, and it would come over almost all the other things in life; something that most of the new generation would need to realize at some point.

The claws of flaw :: The movie does take the safe route rather than trying anything special or unexpected. It might be rather too simple for the liking of some people, unlike Adam Joan, the other good movie of the Onam-Eid season which makes sure that it is more like the exact opposite of this movie – like a mirror image which reverses things. Well, we have interesting movies at both sides of the mirror, and it is a positive sign for the Malayalam movie industry. Yet, one wonders why it was so necessary to add a romantic side to this movie which adds nothing more than a little bit of cuteness along with a song – without the same, this one would have finished in less than two hours, and Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela would have had no moment of deviation from its beautiful family stuff. In a world when youth wishes for quick movies, the movie’s dilatoriness will trouble more than one person, but if you relate to the characters well enough, such a problem can vanish into thin air. There could also be people who want some parts of this movie to be more serious; well could have been even more touching for sure.

Performers of the soul :: Nivin Pauly goes through his role comfortably, as the lazy, Lays eating, London-er with more Keralite thoughts than anything else. There is also a little bit of romantic side for him here, but it is once again the family stuff that he gets to handle, and does very well. When the movie is cute, and the hero is Nivin Pauly, I wonder what can stop the family from rushing into the theatres. It has been a long time since we saw Shanthi Krishna, and it is good to see her back, and she remains the strong point of this movie from the beginning to the end. Lal also joins in and makes this role exactly at the right place. Ahaana Krishna’s second role also seems to be a good choice, as she seems to be doing what Aima Rosmy Sebastian has been doing – she has more to do than the heroine, Aishwarya Lekshmi who has a memorable presence, but gets less time on screen. The Aluvaite Premam team has kind of a get together with Siju Wilson, Krishna Shankar and Sharafudheen there, and strengthens the funny side, and so does Srinda.

How it finishes :: You will find Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela from the debutante director Althaf Salim to be a treat for the whole family, even without trying anything huge. It stays close to life and closer to the heart with those simple moments of life, and simpler instances of comedy being nicely woven into the plot. One has to wonder how well Nivin Pauly has been choosing his movies – from those dual releases of Ivide and Premam, it has been such a fantastic journey. The last three movies, Action Hero Biju, Jacobinte Swargarajyam and Sakhavu have been different in core, and all three of them are worth the appreciation. Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela continues that sequences of interesting movies. With the Tamil movie Richie supposed to come up soon, our movie here will raise hope to an even higher level. As of now, there is no void as it has been at certain points of time, and we have enough to enjoy this vacation season. I wish all of my readers a Happy Eid, as well as a Happy Onam in advance! 🙂

PS: Relate the crab to cancer, and there is more than one meaning which you can take from “the land of crabs” in the title.

Release date: 1st September 2017
Running time: 131 minutes
Directed by: Althaf Salim
Starring: Nivin Pauly, Lal, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Ahaana Krishna, Shanthi Krishna, Siju Wilson, Srinda Arhaan, Krishna Shankar, Sharafudheen, Dileesh Pothan, Saiju Kurup, Sidhartha Siva

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.