Mara

Vampire Owl: This would be a nice name for a new vampire.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that vampires have so many nice names on the official list.

Vampire Owl: I am still confident that we can use one or two more.

Vampire Bat: Even in that case, there is no shortage of names.

Vampire Owl: You know that these names are too old and outdated.

Vampire Bat: There are no outdated names for immortals like us.

Vampire Owl: The world do change, even if vampires do not.

Vampire Bat: Well, we have changed. There are enough examples for the same within the castle itself.

Vampire Owl: Those are not really part of anything that we use.

Vampire Bat: They are all part of us now, even if you don’t realize the same yet.

[Gets a chocolate chake and three glasses of mango shake].

What is the movie about? :: Andrey (Semyon Serzin) wishes for a terrible memory to be erased from the mind of his wife, Olya (Marina Vasileva). For the same, he visits Mara (Aleksandra Revenko) who has some special herbs which could be good enough to do the job for him. Mara realizes that there was a terrible attempt at robbery at their home, and she provides them with some mushrooms which he uses in cake to make sure that she starts forgetting – Mara assures him that she will able to control how much she forgets. That night itself, Olya who was living separately after the incident returns to him. But she still doesn’t want to live with him in the same house where the incident took place, and as Mara had asked him to look after her house after she leaves for a few months, they move to her place which has so many herbs and antique items. She develops a liking for the new place immediately, and is happier than before.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Things seem to go smoother than before from outside. Olya seems to be enjoying her time at the new place, which is strange with its look, but has all the facilities that they need. One night, Andrey does have a dream though, and he sees a child as well as a horse in there, and Olya also sees a person in there, staring at them. Mara assures him that they are ghosts of the previous owners, and that the process does include some side effects, but there is nothing to worry about there, and things can only get better. But Olya begins to experience more, and it only keeps her wishing to get out of there. As a musician, she is not able to practice like she used to, with fear of something being around her. She has her own hallucinations that doesn’t help her at all. Soon, it seems that he is not able to get Mara on the phone again, but it is not all, as he finds out that there is no record of the place as of now, and nobody knows the woman whom he had met. Now he wonders if things are going completely out of control.

The defence of Mara :: There is enough of the feeling of mystery and horror in this particular movie which seems to build, and become stronger with a certain amount of weirdness that is continued to be maintained around here. The atmosphere that is maintained for the same is quite superior, and there are different world being created here, most of them unreal, and bringing a different feeling. It begins very well, providing the idea that we are soon moving to a world of dark fantasy. The film provides the feeling of a twisted fairy-tale which is more than what meets the eye, and the audience are left doubting about many things here. The grief, the melancholy that is present here also feels real, and the whole thing takes enough of deviation to bring the horror, which is less evident, and hidden for us to find. It uses the evil which is off the screen, and generates the fear out of something which is more of a mystery than the usual ghost story.

The claws of flaw :: Mara does have a great beginning, and we were always expecting to see more as it progresses, but there is not that much of terror being unleashed here. The usual quick scares are missing here, even though there were so many opportunities to bring the same, with a certain amount of mystery always present at different areas. It could have also had more of the history of the apartment rather than of the rest. It could have also used the mushrooms in a more terrifying manner rather than with those colours, as the opportunities were many. Being not the usual horror movie, this one could have brought the grandeur that the others would find difficult to bring – that kind of a premise is set in the beginning itself. Mara does miss out on some of such opportunities which were there to be taken, but we appreciate the fact that it could go divergent against all odds. After all, we all have different demons to meet on separate occasions, even though this can be somewhat confusing for regular horror lovers.

Performers of the soul :: Even though not the main character, and even without having that much of time on the screen, it is Aleksandra Revenko who catches our attention from the beginning scenes, and we don’t see much more of her until the end. There is a certain wickedness in her which is clearly visible in the later stages, but the same is also present in her in the beginning too, hidden in her movements. One would have still wanted to use her more in the final stages, in the form of the terrifying antagonist rather than anything else. Semyon Serzin plays a simple, very much confused character, who does some foolish things which come back to haunt him, and that is done fine. At the same time, Marina Vasileva is really good here, and she has blended into this character who goes through different troubles – the emotions are nicely reflected by her. The changes that she goes through are nicely portrayed here, and she also gets more to do by the end of the movie.

How it finishes :: Mara, also known as Side Effect and Pobochnyi Effect reminds us of other Russian horror films like Queen of Spades, Guests and Baba Yaga. The Russian horror movies do have something different in them, just like the science fiction coming from the same area like Coma, Superdeep, Sputnik and The Blackout. There is such grand making quality here. The film also serves as a morality tale, a reminder about how the past cannot be erased, and we can only make things better in the present, for living in past can mean eternal grief and a never ending feeling of melancholy. It is a film of well-made divergent overall, and the same serves as a good cinematic experience with its mystery running directly in the middle. We all need our horror films during the Corona virus pandemic, and this one adds as horror better than most of those flicks which keep repeating the same pattern again and again. After all, we are also having a remake of Ezra coming soon for Bollywood on Amazon Prime Video.

Release date: 5th November 2020
Running time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Aleksey Kazakov
Starring: Semyon Serzin, Marina Vasileva, Aleksandra Revenko, Maria Abramova, Maria Karpova, Anatoliy Zhuravlyov, Stepan Devonin, Sergey Cherdantsev, Natalya Dedeyko, Nikita Tezov

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Kaanekkaane

What is the movie about? :: Deputy Tahsildar Paul Mathai (Suraj Venjaramoodu) is still not out of shock after his daughter Sherin Allen Mathai (Shruti Ramachandran) died as part of a hit and run accident. He is running a case against the man who was responsible for the incident, and he reiterates the fact that he will not forgive the driver not because of the accident, but because he didn’t stop to check on her daughter, and didn’t try to take her to the hospital. Paul believes that it was this hesitation that led to the death of his daughter, as he went missing, and was not found for a long time – an earlier treatment could have saved her. Paul hopes that he will get justice for his dead daughter soon enough. His son-in-law Allen Mathai (Tovino Thomas) is now married to a woman whom he had met during one of his business trips, Sneha George (Aishwarya Lekshmi), who is also pregnant for the first time at the moment. They seem to be a happy family, and his grandson Kuttu (Master Alok Krishna) is also a happy child when he is among them.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Sneha’s father George (Prem Prakash) is concerned about Paul’s infatuation with the case, but Paul is determined to keep his eyes on the case all the time. It is then that he feels that there is something strange about Allen and Sneha, as he looks into her past. Even though Allen had introduced Sneha to him much later, and had asked him permission to marry her, he finds out that they were together much earlier, from a photo dated many months earlier. Even when he was supposed to be alone for work, he was with Sneha. He feels that Allen was cheating on Sherin for a very long time, and for both Allen and Sneha, it was a comfortable death – with Sherin out of the way, they could quickly get into a relationship. He also figures out that Allen reached the accident spot from the exact opposite direction of where he was then. He decides to find out if there is something more to the death of Sherin than what meets the eye. But as he gets closer to the same, he is not finding it easy to live with anymore.

The defence of Kaanekkaane :: If you consider the emotional side, this film is one of the strongest in that category, and there is no force that can drive it out of there – this one is an emotional thriller with class. Combining family elements and bringing the thrills is no easy task, and such emotional feeling takes some extra skill. The melancholy mood is always there, and defines the work, even before the revelations are made, and we move to the ideas of remorse and vengeance in multiple dimensions. In the end, all these lead to the message of forgiveness and the relief that lies in the same. It reaches the same by following multiple paths, and we never really feel that there is such a revelation. The emotional strength of the film grows on you, and it is at its top most level by the end. All these emotions are shown as ruling these characters. The emotional undercurrents never seem to disappear, as we keep coming back to it, like the Lake Poets to the beauty of nature and the Gothic Novelists to the dark terrors of any ancient castle.

The claws of flaw :: The emotional side often takes over long above the tale of people which is explored here. The story is basic, and we see that the pace doesn’t really pick up here at any point, and there is no attempt to focus around there. The moments before one main character’s death are not that much explored, as the first wife only gets a little less of screen space for our liking. The chance to throw in some thrills here and there has also been missed, and there too, the focus shifts to the emotional side. There is not much of colour in this film, and that should be because of its melancholy side rather than anything else. The movie could have had more advertisements before its release, even though we are seeing more of it right now. It does have a big heart, but that could be something which the people outside the film might be lacking. But when we are immersed in the emotions of the film, any problem is easily forgotten.

Performers of the soul :: Suraj Venjaramoodu leads the way here, and he comes up with another emotional performance, the kind in which he has excelled in the last few years, moving out of that comedy genre for long. As far as he is concerned, the list of fantastic performances is just too long, and my favourite has been Finals, in which he played the determined sportsman and father. The same fatherly strength can be seen here too, and the determination that he shows here, and how his character is displayed here are all, a few things to be remembered. There is a lot of melancholy that runs through his face, and we go through his pain as much as he does. His character is also as close to reality as possible, and the emotional depth of the film starts from him, is strengthened by him, and comes to a close with his own actions. Prem Prakash plays the father of the second wife, and the veteran actor has no problems with the work here.

Further performers of the soul :: Tovino Thomas also plays a different kind of character, and like he did in Luca, has a heavy emotional performance to come up with. Here, he is okay with playing the second most important character, and he once again excels without doubt. One has to wonder how well he has risen in the last few years, and last year he had Kilometers and Kilometers as well as Forensic, but this year, he has many more films to his credit. Shruti Ramachandran who was last seen in Anveshanam has rather smaller role, but we note that down too. Then we have Aishwarya Lekshmi as the leading lady in the movie, one of the best young actresses of our times, keeping the melancholy mood of the film going forward. Seen with Tovino in one of the best combinations through Maayanadhi after her debut in Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela, she is indeed the one actress whom everyone needs to watch out for, as she impresses each and every time, leaving nothing to criticize – the same is the case here.

How it finishes :: This is the movie of Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas and Aishwarya Lekshmi, all three coming up with splendid performances, and when we add these three to the melancholic mood which deals with themes that run through here, there is something of fine quality. The human emotions are really well portrayed through these performers, and the strong emotions are always running strong in the background. With such a strong cast, the film has no problems in portraying what it has been trying to do. It is so much multi-layered that we won’t be able to take the side of any character, and therefore we choose to travel through this journey. This is also the first Malayalam film to directly release in this particular OTT platform. Well, for every other good movie in Malayalam, we seem to have the choice of Amazon Prime Video. There is a lot more to release there in October, and that should be enough to keep the movie lovers interested even during the times of Corona virus.

Release date: 17th September 2021 (Sony LIV)
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed by: Manu Ashokan
Starring: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Tovino Thomas, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Shruti Ramachandran, Prem Prakash, Rony David, Dhanya Mary Varghese, Binu Pappu, Sruthy Jayan, Sreeja Das, Master Alok Krishna

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Metamorphosis

Vampire Owl: Do you know that some of the vampires in our group are having a great metamorphosis these days?

Vampire Bat: Vampires are having metamorphosis nowadays? I thought that it was more or less of a werewolf thing.

Vampire Owl: Yes, it used to be. Only the zombies and witches had a small share of the same in the recent past.

Vampire Bat: So, vampires are becoming more or less similar to those people.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but our metamorphosis is rather different in comparison. We metamorphose into something greater, or rather magnificent.

Vampire Bat: Aren’t we magnificent creatures already?

Vampire Owl: Magnificence is no longed counter in the same terms. We are using a new unit to measure it.

Vampire Bat: But, a metamorphosis now is not something that we can afford.

Vampire Owl: Yes, but Doctor Frankenstein has discovered a different method which is cheaper and of a better quality.

Vampire Bat: Mr. Frankenstein! I know that there was someone like him behind all these happenings in the castle.

[Gets an onion vada and three cups of mixed tea].

What is the movie about? :: The movie begins with an attempted exorcism on a young girl who is tied to the bed inside her room. In the beginning, things seem to go on without much of a trouble, and the demon seems to be a weak entity, listening to all the prayers in Korean and Latin, not taking over the girl’s actions or words. But all of a sudden, it turns violent, leading the girl’s mother to come in, making the priest lose his control over the incantations as well as the demon, which takes the girl to the window, making her suicide. But before commiting suicide, the girl and the mother of the girl, both mocks the priest, and tells him that they are as old as God, and the Supreme Power has forsaken him, all these being the will of the Almighty. The priest who is originally named Joong-Soo (Sung-Woo Bae) decides to leave priesthood after being blamed for the girl’s death, but the diocese and his superiors do not approve of it.

So, what happens with the events here? :: As Joong-Soo who has struggled to keep the memories of the demons away, his brother and family moves into a new home in the countryside. Gang-goo (Dong-il Sung), his wife Myung-joo (Young-nam Jang) and the children, Sun-woo (Hye-Jun Kim), Hyun-joo (Yi-Hyun Cho) and Woo-jong (Kang-Hoon Kim) have a bigger home at the countryside with a lot of space both inside and outside, but things do not go as expected in the new place, as there is there is something strange going on there. The problem start with their neighbours itself, and there seems to be something weird going on with the person who is staying at the place too. There is undoubtedly a demon out there who is taking possessing people and taking the shape of humans. The family only has one person to turn to now, but if that person can do the exorcism or not is something that is to be seen.

The defence of Metamorphosis :: Being a movie about demons and exorcisms, it does have that, even though there is a certain shortage for sure. The power of exorcism is shown in the beginning as well as the end, and there is some fine display of creepiness with the neighbour’s house and the talk of the demons. It has blood nicely used, and having the evil entity more powerful than everything has more to be lost in this flick. Well, this time, the demons go personal, and it has more powers than one can imagine, making the idea of defeating it rather difficult and complex, especially with a failed exorcist trying to do the same. The scares are there, but there are limitations considering the fact that not many things scare people these days. The demons don’t have the belief in them coming from people in the modern world, but the movie does manage to rise above it, thanks to the visuals and the performances.

The claws of flaw :: It seems that the Korean film industry is trying a little too hard to find its perfect exorcist movie, just like the zombie movie was found in Train to Busan – the signs can be seen in this movie, where it struggles at times to keep it as what the flick was supposed to be. When you have a shape-shifting demon in your pocket, you are supposed to make more out of it, especially with the scares regarding who is who, and more like who is the demon and who is not. It was that demon who could have had its origin stories and had the strength to keep the whole thing creepy throughout its presence, but that is not done here. The movie also doesn’t use the protagonist’s guilt that much, and comes up that creepy scene in the shower, another one over the bed and another one in the dining room, all of them needing a boost to rise above the usual. Yes, cliches are going to be found here, and repetitions too.

Peformers of the soul :: Metamorphosis, as many other horror movies, has to depend on its demons and exorcists more than anything else. With the demons, it remains safe as usual, as they never stops doing what they were to do in a world of horror and demonic presence. Sung-Woo Bae plays the priest and the exorcist, and we see that he makes a fine priest in the movie, working through the terror very well. Dong-il Sung plays the father figure really well, with the concerns over his daughter worked nicely. Young-nam Jang plays the mother, and that is also done well enough. Among the children, Hye-Jun Kim stands out, as she plays the responsible elder sister, and she also gets to be part of more of the exorcism – she is the believer and the one with most faith than anyone else. Yi-Hyun Cho plays the younger sister who is not the kind of person who is happy with the family, and that also works out well. The rest of the cast adds on well too.

How it finishes :: Another interesting movie about demonic possession comes into the picture with Metamorphosis, and it is something which you can depend on, because it mostly follows the usual pattern, but is not without some divergence here and there. It can be considered as that kind of a movie which stays close to Hollywood flicks like The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Nun, Insidious and The Vatican Tapes, but still manages to bring something which the regular English movie won’t dare to bring, unless it is something like It Follows, Lights Out, Don’t Breathe or The Autopsy of Jane Doe – the movie which could show full divergence. Metamorphosis is the kind of movie which can at least give the usual horror movie with demonic possession horror, even if you don’t like the deviations brought about here, and so the movie makes a safe title to watch among the rest. But you are most probably going to find it to be something more, depending on your taste.

Release date: 21st August 2019
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Hong-seon Kim
Starring: Sung-Woo Bae, Dong-il Sung, Young-nam Jang, Hye-Jun Kim, Yi-Hyun Cho, Kang-Hoon Kim, Se-hee Kim, Jeon Mi Do, Kwi-seon Kim, Dae-han Ji

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Culprit

Vampire Owl: Do you know that I am a culprit in love?

Vampire Bat: How is that relevant right now?

Vampire Owl: I just wanted to remind you that the word applies to me too.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that your experience cannot match the genre of this short-film.

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that you are not finished reviewing short-films?

Vampire Bat: I don’t see why I should ever stop doing that.

Vampire Owl: What about those big movies which have got you most of the hits?

Vampire Bat: They have stopped being something that matter. I am supporting smaller ones right now; they are the future. There is more material in them.

Vampire Owl: You are talking like a true vampire apprentice.

Vampire Bat: I am the first vampire apprentice to write movie reviews. So, my opinion counts more than most of the others in the New Vampire World.

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

What is the movie about? :: Amal (Akhil Vivek) reaches Mumbai from Cochin to meet Jithu (Danish Ashokan), a friend and an elder brotherly figure. It turns out that he has run away from Kerala after the circumstances which lead to a girl named Ancy Kuriyan Thomas (Dona Shankar) going missing, pointed fingers at him. There hasn’t been much progress in the case which only has him as the sole link to the events, but about which he has no clue. Amal tells Jithu his story, which has his best friend Sooraj (Akash Sheel), and an unknown phone call from a female voice which introduced itself as a girl named Devika Varma. As they get closer, Amal asks for her to meet up with him instead of being the random voice on his phone. But despite her agreeing to meet up at Cherai, later calls him to warn him against calling her again unless he wishes to get in trouble.

So, what happens next? :: As they attempt to investigate on the matter, it leads them to Dr. Shafeeq (Anwar Shereef) on whose name, the sim card is taken. He tells them something about the missing girl in the news, Ancy Kuriyan Thomas, which shocks them. But it turns out that they can’t tell that to anyone else, as it would put the shadow of doubt on them. But the police ends up getting a photo which works against Amal, and puts him directly in trouble from the cops as well as the media. Now, he has come directly to Maharashtra and hopes to solve this confusing problem. Can he do that before time runs out? Who is this Devika Varma and how is she related to the mysterious disappearance of Ancy Kuriyan Thomas? Is there a chance than Ancy might be alive after so many days? Why does all this point to Amal when it seems to be clear that he has nothing to do with the girl named Ancy?

The defence of Culprit :: The suspense that the movie has is pretty much huge, and we enjoy how it is told, and it is twisted, in a positive way. From the first few moments, it is established that we have a thriller in store, and then, after a few minutes of the usual stuff to set up the whole thing, we are taken back to staying on the edge of our seats. One would still feel that the end was too quick, and wonder if the absence of the explanation for some deeds were the need – it still lets us think more, and come up with our own conclusions. The movie is actually longer than most of those usual short-films that you see, and so there is plenty of time for the viewers to get drawn into it. With its half an hour run-time over, we end up wishing for the length to be little more, and that is surely a rare thing. Whenever the movie seems to stray away from its path, there will be something, a moment or a dialogue to bring it back on track, and it has a smooth run all the way.

Soul exploration :: Culprit explores what all are there as more than what meets the eye. It shows a protagonist being clueless against a force which seems to have worked against him right from the beginning. There is a mystery here that needs to be solved, as it threatens his own existence, and he understands it should be done as quickly as possible. What we see here is a crime committed, and the person who does that goes to any end to make sure that he is not convicted; for it is something planned well enough to have more than one escape route – there is not much of friendships here to save the day, as the protagonist can trust nobody. We see the movie slowly and steadily getting hold of things, leading to that wonderful revealing in the end. There are things that the movie doesn’t try to tell, and on everything else, what you see and understand gets the clarity.

How it finishes :: Culprit is a fine example of how the right talent shows itself when there is a chance. On one side, we have those big movies struggling to become interesting thrillers, and even with that high budget and big stars, they fail – but here, we have something small in scale, but strong with the idea, which is presented really well on screen. We get a great quality here, without waiting in the queue or spending that extra money on online booking, along with those increased ticket prices – we just need a few MB of data to get into some nice thrilling moments. Culprit also comes at a time when there have been too many short-films dealing with the great nonsense romance in many absurd ways. A well-made thriller lasting half an hour is something that has the strength to go far, and it is hence proven by this short-film.

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

Vampire Owl: Do you think that such people can exist in our society too?

Vampire Bat: We are an alcohol-free society – so it would be difficult, but evil always finds a way.

Vampire Owl: Do you think that they could come through the portal which Doctor Frankenstein had opened earlier?

Vampire Bat: Mr. Frankenstein can only be the means to evil if we allow him to be.

Vampire Owl: It could be through anyone, someone whom we trust the most.

Vampire Bat: Yes, Evil as a person is a clever manipulator.

Vampire Owl: It could be the Lich Queen, Werewolf Anger, Vampire Kung Fu Panda

Vampire Bat: Why do you keep waiting for evil to come, when there is the chance to embrace goodness?

Vampire Owl: Well, you just can’t see so much evil, and still go with goodness.

Vampire Bat: Goodness is difficult, and evil is easy. It is on this that we wonder, and get inspired to think more about the same.

[Walks into the silence of darkness].

Release date: 9th July 2017
Running time: 31 minutes
Directed by: Jithin S Babu
Starring: Akhil Vivek, Danish Ashokan, Dona Shankar, Akash Sheel, Anwar Shereef, Santhu Bhai

Watch the interesting thriller, Culprit here:

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.