Soul of the Dragon

Vampire Owl: Do you know that Uncle Dracula once owned a dragon?

Vampire Bat: Vampires don’t own dragons. The sorcerers do.

Vampire Owl: Well, with the rise of the witches, there are not many left.

Vampire Bat: At least, the necromancers live well with the zombies.

Vampire Owl: You should know that the dragons lived in the dungeons of this castle.

Vampire Bat: You are talking about a legend spread by the villagers.

Vampire Owl: Dr Frankenstein has assured me that it is true.

Vampire Bat: Well, he is one scientist who knows nothing.

Vampire Owl: You don’t know the doctor enough.

Vampire Bat: Well, I know Mr Frankenstein well enough.

[Gets a paneer biriyani and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman (David Giuntoli) has a visit from Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos), an old from a very long time ago, and Bruce is very glad to see him again, but they are attacked by some strangers with axes in their hands. It is then revealed that before he became the vigilante crime fighter known to the world as Batman, he had traveled to Nanda Parbat, a secret monastery in the Hindu Kush area of the Himalayas where he received training in martial arts. There, he was trained by the master of the arts, O-Sensei (James Hong), along with other students, and Richard was one of them. The others included Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu), Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), Jade Nguyen (Jamie Chung) and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox), who are supposed to among his best students – those who are already well-trained in the art. Bruce decides to train among them despite the doubts being present there. He had also learned to control his emotions and redirect them efficiently, along with using the darkness to his advantage.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: O-Sensei bestows upon Shiva, the responsibility of guarding a Muramasa sword called Soul Breaker, after Rip who also claims the same is defeated by her with ease. But Rip has other plans with the sword. He takes the sword, murders Jade who seems to blindly trust him with everything, and ends up opening a portal with the weapon. The area has a magical gate which is guarded by the master, and it would open this portal to world of the serpent god who is mentioned more as a demon, Naga. They had closed the gate once after a long fight against the giant serpents, but not without the sacrifices which had to be made including that of the master himself. Richard had discovered that the millionaire Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton) who leads a cult based on snakes named Kobra had taken control of the gate, and hopes to stop him and his allies at any cost. The strangers who attacked them were also mercenaries sent by him, and were expected to stop any progress.

And what more is to be offered here with the bat and his people on the hunt? :: They look for allies, and also hope to find and protect the sword before it is used to open the gate to the other world. For the same, they travel all the way to the Chinatown in Gotham where Shiva who is still in possession of the sword, and is controlling the world of crime out there. Batman is aligned to the opposite side of the law, but she is only happy to see a good friend again. But they are attacked by a bigger group of trained cultists, and the sword is also taken. The cult now owns a highly fortified island where they hope to open the gate using the sword and along with the same, sacrifice a number of kidnapped children. Now, they have to think differently to stop the worst from happening. They do find Ben and manage to make him a part of the team. But will they be enough to stop the evil from spreading? Are they fast enough to make the difference around here? Can Bruce Wayne contribute to all of these better as the Batman with all the equipment?

The defence of Batman: Soul of the Dragon :: There is something divergent about this particular animated movie that we see as following a different path. We do have the feeling of watching something nostalgic around here, reminding us of the animated series which came in the television, and this one surely has a lot of action along with some nice background music to go with it. You know that there is something about those times which we would wish to remember. The memories of the old kung-fu and karate movies also seem to come back to us to make an impact. It seems that there is also the chance to bring a sequel which can prove to be better than the original – a lot of action seems to be waiting to be unleashed, as we look at the final moments. With a short run-time that goes even below one and half hours, there is no drag in this particular movie as it keeps on going quick and smooth throughout its run. The antagonist of this movie serves really well as the one force of another world which seems to be near impossible to stop.

The claws of flaw :: There is not that much of a strength as in a Batman movie, whether as a detective or a superhero thing; for this one chooses a different path in comparison. It is certainly not the kind of DC movie which is expected too. The title is rather misleading as this is not really about Batman, as not just battle is shared – we just have the superhero in this movie which belongs more to the other characters. Well, Batman seems to be more like the guest who has decided to stay and own parts of the flick. The myth on the demon could have also been used in a better way. This also changes the Batman a little too much than what we know from the other movies, and that feels strange as so many things about our dark superhero seems to go some other way. When you have Batman in what feels more like a martial arts movie, this is expected, but the question still remains if it is what the fans of Gotham’s favourite vigilante would want. Well, you have supernatural forces, and Batman is also forced to go Mortal Kombat against them instead of being himself.

How it finishes :: Batman: Soul of the Dragon reminds one of the many interesting animated movies which DC has come up with in the last few years. Justice Society: World War II, Batman: The Long Halloween Part One and Batman: The Long Halloween Part Two are a few of them which made the impact earlier, and there are a lot of more of them which seems to be ready to contribute further to the world of the live-action, supplementing Aquaman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and everyone around. While Marvel doesn’t seem to have these, DC surely has managed to keep one in the animated world too. Well, we know that animated superheroes have been our first love, and any reminder of the same only helps things further. We are all waiting for the bigger movies from DC, and there is no shortage of love for superheroes. After all, there is none in real life, as the only people who are termed super in our world are the most evil among them all.

Release date: 12th January 2021
Running time: 83 minutes
Directed by: Sam Liu
Starring: David Giuntoli, Kelly Hu, Jamie Chung, Mark Dacascos, Michael Jai White, James Hong, Josh Keaton

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Sweet Girl

Vampire Owl: I remember having met a sweet witch.

Vampire Bat: I do not remember any witch being sweet at all.

Vampire Owl: He had some of the sweetest magic potions.

Vampire Bat: You shouldn’t buy potions without approval of Vampire Senate.

Vampire Owl: I have paid all the taxes along with the price.

Vampire Bat: You will still have to pay the import duty.

Vampire Owl: But we belong to the same realm.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but not the same territory.

Vampire Owl: Now, we are having taxes like humans?

Vampire Bat: It is still very much less in comparison to some of the nations in the world of evil humans.

[Gets a raspberry cake and three cups of orange tea].

What is the movie about? :: Ray Cooper (Jason Momoa) jumps off the top of a building while being chased by the police, and it is followed by a flashback. His wife Amanda Cooper (Adria Arjona) gets really ill with a rare form of cancer. The survival expert, Ray hopes that he can do all that is possible to save her. But it is soon revealed that the life-saving drug called Infirmam was taken off the market due to Bio Prime CEO Simon Keeley (Justin Bartha) paying the manufacturers to delay the production. This also means that there was going to be an indefinite delay, and Amanda doesn’t have that much time. He watches congress woman Diana Morgan (Amy Brenneman) going through a live devate with Simon, and there he seems to be talking about much their company is dedicated to saving lives at less cost, and on how much they have sacrificed in the form of money and time. He makes a call to the live debate, and as Simon doesn’t seem to care that much about bringing the drug back to the market, Ray threatens to kill him if his wife dies because of this negligence.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Soon enough, Amanda dies, and Ray is left with his daughter Rachel Cooper (Isabela Merced) to go on with the pain and grief. A few months later, Ray gets a call from a journalist Martin Bennett (Nelson Franklin) who claims that he possesses evidence related to the unethical practices and criminal activities on the side of Bio Prime. They meet on a moving train, but a hitman Amo Santos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) attacks them, killing the journalist and stabbing Ray. Rachel who had followed them also gets knocked out in the process. Even though further investigations reveal nothing about what had happened with Bio Prime or in the train, and with no information about the hitman who attacked them, Ray still continues to track Simon and his company. He manages to sneak into a charity programme and interrogate Simon, only to be attached by the bodyguards whom he manages to kill along with his gaurds. The only other responsible name that he gets is that of the chairman of the same company, Vinod Shah (Raza Jaffrey). FBI Agent Sarah Meeker (Lex Scott Davis) is in charge of the case.

And how far can this go as we keep moving forward? :: Ray and Rachel go on a long ride through less taken roads, trying to get away before the police officers or the assassins get to them. Rachel tries calling Sarah, hoping that she will look into Bio Prime before her father comes up with something terrible again. Sarah is able to get the trust of Rachel like a mother figure. Meanwhile, they are attacked by mercenaries who seems to have found them much to their surprise. Ray fights them and after a small fight, ends up killing them too. At the same time, the same hitman who had attacked them on the train is after them too. Their only option here seems to be to find Vinod and hope that it ends with them. But Santos has other ideas about it, and Vinod knowing anything more than what Simon knew seems not possible at all. How far does all these secrets go? Who might be the last link behind all of these? Will the father and daughter duo survive against what they seem to be completely incapable of handling? Is there a thing like hope for them?

The defence of Sweet Girl :: Jason Momoa is here doing what he does the best, without the superpowers of Aquaman and outside the team of Justice League. Isabela Merced has a point as the daughter figure. She plays a character who is more matured than anyone else of her age, and has her own ideology. This is also one strong character that she can happy that she played. The twist also works like a dream for her, and she rises above everyone else with ease here. She does remind one of Chloe Grace Moretz, like someone who could rise above the senior stars when provided with an opportunity. Then there is Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as the hitman and Amy Brenneman as the congress woman who are all doing what they do the best. The action sequences are all good, and both the father and daughter do their job well. The twist basically comes a shock, even though there were some red herrings here and there – that should work for most people. The movie, just like it begins well, ends without overdoing it, but being mostly satisfactory.

The claws of flaw :: The movie could have been quicker here, as there is a lot action to be done. The twist in question here doesn’t seem to be that effective for everyone, as the willing suspension of disbelief might have its problems with how the action sequences have been going on here. It does take a little too much time to get to the twist, which should have been revealed earlier for the audience to adjust to the whole new situation it had created. The loopholes are surely there, especially in the second half of the movie. The movie does seem to be confused about how to respect the genre, and the world it had built earlier. The feeling of half-bakedness does bring some trouble. There was the chance to come up with better dialogues and better emotional moments too – the emotions are there, but with the twist, some emotions feel as if they didn’t exist at all. With that particular twist, it also feels that some of the length of this movie was for no reason, as a number of things didn’t happen as it was shown.

How it finishes :: Sweet Girl is more of less the movie that can go in the path of Hitman, Transporter, John Wick, Mechanic, Accountant, Equalizer, Kate and others while having its main lead going through the impossible to reach the other end. It would require a sequel for that, as it had that twist which changed things a little too much. There will be opinions against this one for sure, as the twist would take away something which the fans would have wanted in the climax, but the film did require something divergent to set a path different from the usual movies dealing with this kind of thing – you can’t just complain for taking the risk and bringing more to ponder about. With lots of action around, a few things can be forgotten, and others can be appreciated – what is to loved and hated might still be different for different types of people. I would be asking people to watch this one without looking at the spoilers and come with your opinion. We are never really less in need of action thriller with a huge mission in hand, right?

Release date: 20th August 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 110 minutes
Directed by: Brian Andrew Mendoza
Starring: Jason Momoa, Isabela Merced, Adria Arjona, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Amy Brenneman, Raza Jaffrey, Justin Bartha, Lex Scott Davis, Michael Raymond-James

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Heaven

Vampire Owl: Do you think that Uncle Dracula is going to heaven?

Vampire Bat: I am sure that vampires have a different afterlife.

Vampire Owl: You mean beyond heaven and hell?

Vampire Bat: Somewhere in between, to be exact.

Vampire Owl: Are you talking about the purgatory?

Vampire Bat: I wouldn’t know before death, but there would surely be blood.

Vampire Owl: Well, as long as there is blood, I am okay with it.

Vampire Bat: You don’t really take the blood substitute anymore?

Vampire Owl: Until Doctor Frankenstein invents the perfect substitute, I won’t.

Vampire Bat: Then, be assured that it will a long wait, because that pseudo-doctor and scientist with fake degree is involved.

[Gets a paneer puffs and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: A group of NCC cadets discover a dead body in the forest area where they were camping for the holidays from their school. The first police officer to the scene is Bijoy Kuruvilla (Sudev Nair), and the dead person is identified to be Fabian John (Deepak Parambol), with the help of the forensic experts who are led by Narayana Swami (Joy Mathew). According to the descriptions from the witnesses and circumstancial evidences, the police discover the murderer to be none other than Peter Kurishingal (Suraj Venjaramoodu), another police officer. Then, the movie gets a flashback when Peter is in charge of a police station in a village. He had only recently lost his wife, and has a number of cases for investigation, which he takes very seriously so that he can use them to forget the grief of loss. His mother Mariyam Kurisingal (Vinaya Prasad) takes care of his only son, as he remains mostly busy as a strict police officer. But things get worse as he comes up against a case which would prove to be personal for him, as a family is murdered, and along with them, he also find his son’s dead body, much to his shock.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Peter’s subordinate Sukumara Pillai (Alencier Ley Lopez) is posted in the case with the new officer in charge of the investigation, Inspector Kishore (Padmaraj Ratheesh) who seems to be solving the case rather quickly, and a man named Stephen (Jaffar Idukki) confesses to have committed the crime with an immigrant labourer from West Bengal, as part of an attempted robbery. Peter has his doubts, but as one of the victims is his son, his superior officer Revathi Subramaniam (Abhija Sivakala) declines him an opportunity to be part of the investigation team, but lets him have a look at it as part of a parallel investigation for which he would be solely responsible. Soon, he discovers that the man who is accused of murder, Stephen actually had nothing to do with it. This home named Heaven, where the murders took place, seem to have more than one secrets to be discovered. His discoveries soon lead to him taking over the case after joining back on duty. But it remains to be seen if he will like what he would discover.

The defence of Heaven :: Here is one more addition to the smart thrillers of our times with some fine red herrings. The investigation shown in the movie feels solid, and so does the emotional side. The movie achieves its motives without exaggerating anything at any moment. There are twists till the end of the movie, and we see that it has nicely solved the puzzles to come strong in the end with enough strength. The realistic mode is maintained while bringing up the thrills and twists, and it surely feels like something which could happen during these days when different crimes are part of the news more than ever. Even the police procedures seem to be much accurate, and it doesn’t seem to venture into those areas where the smartness of the audience is questioned; maybe it is because the film chooses to have no such superstars who have so many fans wishing for their favourite actor to destroy evil like a fallen angel. Well, this movie is also something with fallen angels, but it knows how to keep it realistic. This is the kind of film that can teach valuable lessons for Bollywood which has its non-performers coming out of nepotism, not able to emote.

The positives and negatives :: The visuals are really good, and the camera is particularly good in capturing the emotions of Suraj Venjaramoodu, with all the grief which is part of the character’s life. The moments after the son’s death is as emotional as it can get, and it is only matched by the determination in his face that comes up later. There are the inner and outer battle shown here are with their own relevance. Heaven does not hesitate in going through the emotional path of the police officer and his investigation, just like it was seen in the movie Memories which had that abiding sadness in it which would return to haunt the viewer. The movie could have actually focused on the darker side even more. The return to the initial moments come rather too late, and due to the same, people might have actually forgotten the events which had happened earlier. The movie does slow down after the deaths and following emotional troubles, and it could have used a serial killer instead of the usual vengeance ideas being repeated. The music doesn’t feel as that great in comparison to some of the other thrillers which dealt with similar themes.

The performers of the soul :: Suraj Venjaramoodu handles the regretful cop role really well, and it reminds us of his earlier movie Pathaam Valavu, where he had also lost his child. The helpless and lack of hope can be seen on one side, while there is smartness on the other. He is the police officer and father to remember. The emotional struggle which was best displayed in Kaanekkaane, and added with mass in Jana Gana Mana and Driving License works really well here too, as he is indeed one of the best actors to go through a strong emotional side. The biggest support to him is provided by Alencier Ley Lopez who makes a fine cop in a supporting role; I had felt that John Luther could have really used him as a police officer too. The actors like Sudheesh and Jaffer Idukki add more of an emotional side to the film with their shorter presence. Vinaya Prasad also has the emotional grandmother role. Padmaraj Ratheesh and Sudev Nair also makes some fine police officers. Abhija Sivakala as the superior police officer is also solid. Deepak Parambol’s as well Nimisha Sajayan’s smaller roles are effective too. The collection of performers here makes sure that there is something interesting about all of them.

How it finishes :: Heaven gets into the list of interesting thrillers including the recently released Twenty One Grams and Solamante Theneechakal, as well as many others which came earlier. After all, the thrillers of this world mean more than just Drishyam. The movie working a lot better than the heavily hyped movies like CBI 5: The Brain is a reminder that we have some new names who can do the same thing better. Well, this is the kind of film which can never work for Bollywood as the sons and daughters of superstars would not agree to act in movies which cannot progress without throwing hundreds of villains around. Movies like this should open their eyes to the idea that there is the need for more thinking differently, or the drought in Bollywood of blockbusters is going to continue forever. Bollywood’s fight with its own incompetence might be forever, but during those times, Malayalam movie industry, just like the other South Indian film industries, is coming up with some fine works of quality which are to be remembered.

Release date: 19th August 2022 (Hotstar); 17th June 2022 (Theatre)
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Unni Govindraj
Starring: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Sudev Nair, Sminu Sijo, Sudheesh, Joy Mathew, Alencier Ley Lopez, Jaffer Idukki, Vinaya Prasad, Abhija Sivakala, Deepak Parambol

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Solamante Theneechakal

Vampire Owl: Do you think that there could be honeybees in this movie?

Vampire Bat: I am sure that the bees are different in this case.

Vampire Owl: I was looking forward to see a vampire bee.

Vampire Bat: There has been no bee which has been turned into a vampire.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein has transformed a few.

Vampire Bat: They are pseudo vampires. They won’t count.

Vampire Owl: You continue to show your prejudice against Doctor Frankenstein.

Vampire Bat: I have never shown love for dumb experiments.

Vampire Owl: You will surely love the vampire bee though.

Vampire Bat: You should see how the human bees turn out here in this movie which is noted as a romantic thriller.

[Gets a vegetable samosa and three cups of cardamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: Glyna Thomas (Vincy Aloshious) and Suja S (Darshana S. Nair) are police constables who are also best friends – they have also rented a place together in Cochin. While Suja is posted in traffic duty, Glyna is assigned the duties at the police station itself. CI Binu Alex (Addis Antony Akkara) is in the charge of the station, and Suja hopes to get rid of the traffic duty and somehow be part of the station duties. For the same, Suja tries to portray Sharath Balakrishnan (Shambhu Menon) as a nuisance for women, but fails miserably. She even falls in love with him later. Sharath works for Nikhil Davis (Sunil Sukhada) who runs a rent-a-car business, but also has other motives. Their love story continues well until one day Binu and Sharath comes across each other, leading to a fight. Binu vows to make Sharath suffer for laying his hands on a police officer, but it is then that a criminal named Arumughan (Manikandan Achari) makes an entry with a grudge against Binu. Then, on an eventful night, things go out of control, and Suja might be the one to suffer for it. Will at least Glyna stand with her during the crisis?

The defence of Solamante Theneechakal :: It is to be noted that Solamante Theneechakal is a movie that has been much awaited by people who had watched at least one episode of the talent hunt show from where the leading actors of the movie where selected. But considering the performances which we come across here, this is more than that – none of the leading performers show any signs of acting in their first movie. They cast indeed is the biggest strength of the movie, as the newcomers score so well with the elder stars like Joju George and Johny Antony. The thrills remain strong, right after the defining incident. The twists are also there to be taken, and the red herrings are very much effective, to make us wonder about them. The early scenes also remain cute, and the friendship is effectively portrayed, with romance almost having a role to be added. There is also a certain amount of realism in the way the life of the leading ladies are portrayed, as both Vincy and Darshana make everything feel so real. Until the life turns around, everything that they do is so natural and without hesitations – the audience falls in love with such portrayal without exaggerations or pretensions.

The claws of flaw :: The absence of the big stars might make this movie’s collections and early appreciation struggle a bit – most people are still slaves to the superstars, and there are other three already established success stories in the form of crowd favourite movies already running in the theatres, which could make this particular movie take a hit. The dark side that the movie adds, do not get that much of a strength as it was expected, and there is some predictability about a few things, even though not with the grand scheme of things. The songs are not that great, and none of them provides the feeling of romance or terror, two elements which seemed to rise above the others – one or two still provide the feel-good feeling though. The first fight scene might be the only exaggerated moment, but there is no following it up well enough. The investigating officer does seem to deviate from the main concerns in the case, but it is justified in the end. Some of the supporting cast members don’t seem to have been used with the effectiveness that they might have deserved – it is still understandable, as the focus is on establishing the new talent which did such a fantastic job on television and deserves to be in the focus throughout the film. Yet, at times it chooses to defy logic by a little bit

The performers of the soul :: It was news then that the main performers for Lal Jose’s new movie were to be selected through a talent hunt show called Nayika Nayakan which aired on Mazhavil Manorama. Darshana S Nair and Shambhu Menon were the winners of the show, and they play the lead with the romantic side in this movie. Vincy Aloshious and Addis Antony Akkara who were the runner-ups in the show also play the next important roles in the movie as expected. They were selected from sixteen contestants going through multiple rounds, and it was one of the high quality shows from which these people were selected, and they have shown the same set of skills reflected around here too. Along with Vincy, some other participants like Meenakshi Raveendran, Ann Jameela Saleem, Venkitesh VP, Amina Nijam and Malavika Krishnadas were already seen in small roles in movies. Thattumpurath Achuthan had served as a vehicle for most of them to make some relatively small appearances which would not be memorized, and this one was to become the bigger space for these four to perform in a memorable way.

Further performers of the soul :: The movie is supposed to be the next big platform for these performers to show their skills, even though their talent hunt show was something which was a memorable experience for the audience. Even the participants in that show who were eliminated earlier, like Ann Paul were enormously skilled – that left no doubt about what these people could achieve. To support them, as the centre of everything, there is also Joju George, who had his best performance in Madhuram last year along with that memorable journey through Pada this year. He feels very natural as the police officer whose portrait never gets exaggerated – we know what he can do with this from Joseph itself. The performers from the talent show makes us feel the professionalism and not the reluctance of the newcomers. Among them, Vincy Aloshious stands out as the star performer, and her moments with Addis are too good. Darshana gets into make things even better – her moments with Vincy are among the best, whether with a funny side or the emotional one, and the two make things work so well. Addis’ villainous side is a strong one, and a lot realistic, but could have used better voice. Shambhu feels perfectly suitable for this role.

How it finishes :: This seems to be a movie which should have released much earlier, if it was not for the corona virus spreading through the world. As it was intended, the movie serves as the fine platform to show the abilities of the performers selected from the talent hunt show, which would reach the bigger audience. I was still surprised to see the less number of audience for this movie, and I would hope for the numbers to increase as it has the quality – we are all admirers of good movies, as far as I know. The other successful movies at the theatre might be a reason, but this need to pick up the pace, and with some good opinions, it should surely do that – this would be one of the first such opinions. The movie has to depend on the content more than anything else with the big names being absent, and it does exactly that, with the thrilling moments and the twists that are added to the tale. With no exaggeration of action or life itself, the movie is something that has the special ingredient, which is the new young cast itself. Seeing them would make us believe that Lal Jose has indeed made the right decision once more.

Release date: 18th August 2022
Running time: 139 minutes
Directed by: Lal Jose
Starring: Joju George, Darshana S Nair, Vincy Aloshious, Addis Antony Akkara, Shambhu Menon, Shiva Parvathy, Johny Antony, Manikandan Achari, Shaju Sreedhar, Binu Pappu, Sunil Sukhada, Sivaji Guruvayoor, Abhinav Manikantan, Aurora Adya

<<< Click here to go to the previous film review.

<<< Click here to go to the previous Malayalam film review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Midnight

Vampire Owl: There are not many mediums that vampires can use at midnight.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that we can use an Ouija board at midnight instead.

Vampire Owl: That board is a fake medium invented by humans.

Vampire Bat: So, you think that there is no hope with the board.

Vampire Owl: Yes, we need to look forward to finding an undead conductor.

Vampire Bat: You cannot have any of the undead allow something from the other side to pass through it.

Vampire Owl: The undead is greater than any spirit.

Vampire Bat: Getting possessed by a spirit is not a great experience.

Vampire Owl: So, you think that there can be possessions.

Vampire Bat: Well, you know the thing about demonic possessions.

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

What is the movie about? :: Kim Kyung-mi (Jin Ki-joo), is a mute and deaf woman who works as a sign language customer service executive at a sign language call center. Her mother Kyung-mi’s mother (Gil Hae-yeon) is also dumb and deaf. As some of the employees have to go for a dinner with the clients, she chooses to go with her employers and return late at midnight. Jung-eun’s (Kim Hye-yoon) goes out on a date at night, and her brother Jong-tak (Park Hoon) who works as a security guard after serving in the army, is worried because she would arrive late, almost at midnight, especially as a man and woman were found dead during an earlier night. Coming back home late after dinner and visiting her mother, Kim witnesses the sister bleeding after being stabbed by an unknown man and becomes the new target for this particular serial killer Do-sik (Wi Ha-joon) who had been hunting women, and sometimes unsuspecting men some time around midnight. She runs further away from the area when her mother is standing and tries to hide, but the killer is someone who knows the area really well.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The killer needs to find the young woman to make sure that there are no trails that lead to her. At the same time, Jong-tak is in the streets, searching for his sister who has not returned home yet. As Kim reaches her car and enters it, she is shocked to find him inside the vehicle, and after being forced to drive at knifepoint, she jumps out the car, once again chased by the killer, only to connect to the cops, but as she cannot sleep, it does not work at all. When the police finally arrive, it seems that the killer had already manipulated all the evidence, and there are no suitable clues in the CCTV cameras either. The killer had also joined them in making things more confusing for the mother and daughter duo. As the brother also arrives in the police station with the photo of his sister, Kim identifies her as the woman who was abducted, stabbed and kept in the vehicle by the stranger. But the killer is someone who knows when to manipulate and when to kill with all the brutality – does this mean that the killer will go on with the murders and the sister and the witness would also have to die?

The defence of Midnight :: In the beginning, this movie might seem to be just another serial killer movie with its antagonists targeting random people on the streets, but it becomes much more than that, as it uses almost everything at its disposal to the best effect. The night itself has been used to its best advantage, and this is also not the kind of movie when there is a long investigation going on, and the police has to go for clues which they acquire over days, and the result is that there would be more victims. Instead, this movie has so many thrilling moments set in a night, which has the serial killer’s smartness displayed in an interesting manner, but we are not bothered with the flashbacks or the motive that would have been there in other movies – this becomes more of a survival movie where there is the need to make sure that a missing woman survives, and at the same time, the leading lady further struggles to survive. As things unfold with a night that progresses, there is the idea that two of the main characters cannot speak and hear, which drives this movie to bringing things to light in a different manner. There is no shortage of thrills around here, and silence is nicely used with sound effects in a visual treat of terror.

Positives and negatives :: There are moments when one would feel that the movie could have elevated the status a little bit. But the final moments are just too good, as finally the serial killer understands that more than one person can play his game. The movie is a survival thriller for the main protagonist, and Jin Ki-joo, with her performance, has us backing her to survive against all odds. The characters do no get to be that smart as they should be though, as they create opportunities for the killer to come back and get them, multiple times. There are many co-incidences in here too, and those are used a little more than needed. But there is no shortage of the feeling of danger around here, as night seems to be used as a medium for the serial killer terror to spread – it always seems that he is in control, even when he gets beaten up. We did not know about this movie when it released, but we know it now, and we have that serial killer whom we have been waiting. The movie is also a reminder that in a busy world, nobody has time to check on others, and a serial killer could always be hiding among us, undetected until captured.

The performers of the soul :: Jin Ki-joo is leading lady and the protagonist of this movie, and she comes up with a performance to remember as the woman who cannot speak or hear, but has to rise above her limitations as she faces one of smartest and most brutal serial killer who is good at hiding his motives. She has presented the character so well that the audience keep believing that she has no hope, but continues to see that slight ray of hope that she could stay alive despite the odds being very much against her. She seems to be better known for the South Korean television series and the drama, but the way in which she displays the hopelessness and fear to replace it with courage, is something that will catch our eyes – the ending with her character gaining the advantage is too good. Wi Ha-joon makes a fantastic serial killer, and I won’t be surprised if someone would try to copy this character, as the killer works so well. Park Hoon also join in very well. Then there is Gil Hae-yeon who comes up with the mother figure really well. At the same time, Kim Hye-yoon is lovely addition, and becomes the reason for the events of the movie to start moving forward.

How it finishes :: Midnight is a reminder that Korean films still possess the top quality with horror thrillers featuring serial killers. It will be a good idea to watch the movie on Amazon Prime Video before someone from Bollywood copies the film and shows it as a much lesser version with the brother of the victim and the girl who witnesses the crime dancing to songs at a party while the serial killer kills the abducted girl, and we would also have to listen to some very sad songs with the brother grieving for the sister. The quality of this movie will always be higher as it does have all the emotions, but never does it overdo them, or come up with irrelevant subplots or exaggerating the villain. We directly enter this world which is all about that particular night, and the audience is also as much part of the events that happen during midnight, and everyone goes on this journey with the main characters. You are also reminded that you need to go back to these kind of movies, and even though we do have our own serial killers with films like Forensic, Anjaam Pathiraa, Memories and Antakshari, but none so classically determined in the form of a stranger as this one.

Release date: 30th June 2021
Running time: 103 minutes
Directed by: Kwon Oh-seung
Starring: Jin Ki-joo, Wi Ha-joon, Kim Hye-yoon, Gil Hae-yeon, Park Hoon, Kang In-seo, Noh Su-min, Na Eun-saem, Lee Jae-seok, Park Ji-hoon, Song Yoo-hyun, Bae Eun-woo, Kwon Young-min, Jung Wo Chang

<<< Click here to go to the previous film review.

<<< Click here to go to the previous Korean film review.

<<< Click here to go to the previous Korean horror film review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

John Luther

Vampire Owl: It has been 826 days. That is a long time.

Vampire Bat: 826 days after watching a movie in the theatre, and now we are back.

Vampire Owl: The OTT life was quite long during that time, right?

Vampire Bat: Yes, mostly of Prime Video and Netflix, and then others.

Vampire Owl: The last one we watched was Forensic.

Vampire Bat: That was a good end to the sequence before corona virus.

Vampire Owl: Well, we remain the same even now.

Vampire Bat: We continue to live in a world without hope.

Vampire Owl: There is no movie that can be close to the reality of hopelessness.

Vampire Bat: Well, we will watch this movie for now, and think about the meaninglessness of a hopeless life later.

[Gets a vegetable samosa and three cups of cadamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: Circle Inspector John Luther (Jayasurya) of Devikulam police station is someone who is very much committed to his duty. He is fully supported by Sub Inspector Felix Joy (Deepak Parambol) who also spends a lot of time dedicated to duty. The absense of John during the major programmes at his home has his wife Jessy (Athmeeya Rajan) and sister Leena (Drishya Raghunath) in sadness, and his parents (Siddique and Sreelakshmi) in disappointment. On the night before his sister’s engagement, John finds him in trouble due to two cases. The first one is related to a political murder and the second one is a man-missing case following an accident which kills another person. The first case leads to John getting physical with the goons and ends up getting smashed on the head with a tube-light, which leads to him going deaf on one year, and requiring to use hearing aid on the other. But with a boy also found to be missing, he has to get back to the case and solve it within a deadline of two weeks.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: He discovers that the two missing cases have no relation with each other, and there is soon a woman that goes missing. The death in the first accident, and the missing person of the same accident seem to have no common person behind them. Their only clue is a pickup truck which doesn’t have the registration number displayed on one side, which makes it very difficult for them to go forward. All of these incidents have happened in a certain area which doesn’t seem to have many people around. As this takes place in the high-ranges between the tea plantations, there seems to be a shortage of CCTV cameras too. But they hope that there could be that one witness who might have seen one of these victims just before or after being taken away by the criminal. Still, it is to be noted that the man who is behind all of these can’t be a common criminal – there might be a lot more to him. John and Felix have to be very careful in this case. Can they find out the mastermind before there are more victims?

The defence of John Luther :: As far as the thrills are concerned, they are here to stay with this particular movie. There is the grand mystery running through the middle, which never losses strength. The suspense could be maintained, and it keeps us guessing. There are red herrings which almost makes us think the other way. The quality that we see on the big screen is too good – the beauty of visuals is always there, whether it is about the long shots of the enchanting Munnar and Cochin or the classic shots of night with danger lurking in the corners. The final moments have us more in fear than anything else, as the villain is revealed, but not with further twists. The songs are interesting, and they support the happenings of the movie well. The background score is effective, and the use of sound effects to support the proceedings also need to be appreciated. The darkness in a very good ally for this particular movie, as much as the different noises used around here – the scene at the beginning is a nice example of the same.

Positives and negatives :: One would be right to find some cliches here, but we have always required most of them to keep the cinematic world moving forward with strength. The movie could have given more significant chances to its female main leads to perform, as they are pushed to the background rather too early. There is a little bit of horror touch to the movie at times, and that could have worked even better if the elements were introduced much earlier. The movie is a reminder to us that any person among us could be a psycho killer, and idea that could save lives – well, those who enjoy when we fall are no less of such killers either. After all, all human beings are born evil, and this film once again shows how effective in evil they can be, especially when they feel that they are done with the society. We blame the evil spirits and demons, and maybe even categorize vampires as pure evil, but humans have always been the root of all evil. The dark world of the investigation in this movie also points towards the same, and we can’t agree less.

The performers of the soul :: Jayasurya is someone who performed all alone in Sunny last year, and this time, he gets a fine team, and we have him with a fine performance here. We believed that he was indeed the actor to be trusted while booking a movie ticket after such a long time, and also at Lulu Mall; quite an expensive one in this case. One would think that after watching so many films in the theatre from 2013 to 2020 until corona virus brought the trouble, the celebrities will be supporting this blog, but that is wrong, because only a very few of my reviews like Meppadiyan and Luca have been shared by the leading actors of respective films. Anyway, coming back to Jayasurya, he looks and performs like the dedicated actor that he always has been. From the perfect police officer to the flawed one like we see in Memories, he is to be appreciated for how well he has brought the quality in here. It is to be noted that Deepak Parambol also brings some fine support in here, as the police officer who is not left far behind, but stays beside the main character. Athmiya Rajan and Drishya Raghunath are lovely, but has less screen time. The villain is really good, but can’t reveal more about him due to spoiler possibilities.

How it finishes :: You always have time to support a dark mystery thriller placed on an investigation. We did welcome movies like Anjaam Pathira, Antakshari and Forensic with much appreciation. Like the latter movie, this one also keeps its killer as the psycho and not a revenge seeker, which lets it have the advantage over the rest of the similar movies which attempt to turn themselves into random movies of vengeance. The time it takes to come to the final villain also needs to be appreciated, as the suspense is successfully maintained until then. This is also the first movie I have watched in the theatre after 826 – the last one was Forensic just before corona virus had made that big run. It is always good to watch thrillers as much as horror movies, as we are better prepared to face all the evil in the world after watching these movies, and we know when to be ready, and when to give up and just die. After all, evil is too natural for humans, and there is always someone trying to lie, cheat and steal, as well as murder us, or make our life a living hell; its in human nature.

Release date: 27th May 2021
Running time: 135 minutes
Directed by: Abhijith Joseph
Starring: Jayasurya, Athmeeya Rajan, Drishya Raghunath, Siddique, Deepak Parambol, Sivadas Kannur, Pramod Velliyanad, Sreelakshmi

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

<<< Click here to go to the previous Malayalam film review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Black Island

Vampire Owl: Are we talking about the island near the Northern Witches territory?

Vampire Bat: That one is called the Dark Island of Magic.

Vampire Owl: Well, that depends on the translation.

Vampire Bat: Let the vampire elders deal with the translation of ancient languages.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein is good with languages.

Vampire Bat: I am sure that Mr Frankenstein was talking about computer languages.

Vampire Owl: He has worked with the Northern Witches in relation to creating new magic potions through scientific experiments.

Vampire Bat: This is why I told you that he is a pseudo-scientist of no real value.

Vampire Owl: You should say the same thing when he wins the Vampire Nobel Prize,  and gets elected to the Vampire Science Academy.

Vampire Bat: There is no Vampire Nobel Prize for pure nonsense.

[Gets a green apple cake and three cups of ginger tea].

What is the movie about? :: Jonas Hansen (Philip Froissant) is an orphan who lives under the sponsorship of the last member of his family. He recently lost his grandmother to the attack of a dog on a beach, while his parents had died in a car crash caused by another driver, both incidents seemingly having something strange about it. Nina Cohrs (Mercedes Muller) who lives in the island is instantly attracted to Jonas, and they become good friends. Most of the girls of the island do have some attraction towards him. It is that kind of a place where there is not that much of a modernity – beautiful scenery seems to make the best out of tourism, but even then, not many tourists visit the area. The place doesn’t have a lot of things happening around there either, and it remains a place of serenity throughout the year. Helena Jung (Alice Dwyer) takes over the German classes in an island which is located far away from the mainland in Europe. She is the replacement for a teacher who just had an accident, and would take a lot of time to make a return.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The new teacher feels like someone whom everyone would like, and she remains friendly with almost every student. She asks the students to call her by her first name when they are not at the educational institution, or when nobody else is listening. She also shows great interest in making the students write poetry and improve their creative writing skills, and with the friendly attitude, becomes a favourite of almost all the students. Soon, Helena seems to get really close to Jonas, or rather too close for a teacher and student, while Nina maintains a certain amount of dislike for her. Nina’s suspicions are at place, but the relationship between the teacher and the student only becomes more intimate. There are too many secrets related to the new teacher, and any attempt to venture any deeper into it will put Nina in peril. But can she stay away from this mystery as she cares too much about Jonas? Will Jonas really understand what is going on here? What is the motive of Helena, and why would she choose to be in a remote island instead of the city from where she arrived?

The defence of Black Island :: The movie does work as a mystery thriller a few minutes into action itself. There is the eerie feeling that spreads through the movie especially due to the setting on an island which reminds one of that strange world surrounded by water shown in Sacrifice. The twists await us, and the movement forward, even though slow, is rather smooth. It also makes sure that there is no falling into that usual pit of nonsense with the relationship at the centre. The visuals are really good, as we are introduced into a world with natural beauty within, and surrounded by beaches and crystal clear ocean water, reminding us to go for a journey soon enough. Well, after that COVID-19 scenario, travel hasn’t really opened up for most of us, and it is nice to see this world of beauty at least on the screen. The atmosphere does suit the thirst for revenge, and we know that this kind of a world can have even a serial killer on the loose with maximum effect. There will be the moments to cherish right in between.

The claws of flaw :: This is not the kind of idea that one would need to appreciate for theme – elder teachers falling in love with too young a student is not something that should be encouraged, even with seemingly decent movies like Premam which would use pretensions to play with the minds of the unsuspecting people – as part of a plan of vengeance, that wouldn’t look that bad in this case; there is enough of a past around here. Still, the relationship should have looked more convincing, and the things around here looks rather too easy. These are the kind of things which are to be dealt with more intensity. The movie also kills off one of the most interesting characters in there rather too early. The investigation into all of these should have also been stronger, and people in this movie are not as smart as they should have been. The moments which are of importance here should have also been edited better, showing them as the parts which shouldn’t be missed. The movie could have also picked up pace too.

The performers of the soul :: The movie is mostly an Alice Dwyer work, with her as the centre of attraction. There are still moments when one would feel that she could have been completely into this case of revenge, but at times, she seems be not in focus at more than one thing. It could be more because of her character not being written with that vision that a revenge-seeker should have. A stronger character would have been better for our eyes and the rest of the senses. Yet, she maintains that mystery about her well, especially during the first half of the flick. Mercedes Muller plays a strong role, and she is lovely in her infatuation towards her long-time friend. She seems to be the one intelligent and determined person like nobody else in the movie, and she surely required a screen presence throughout the movie. Philip Froissant plays a usual character who surprisingly has too less to do other than listening to his teacher who became the lover and the friends around him – he is reduced into a person of not that much of importance. The other performers are of not that importance in this small world.

How it finishes :: I have come across some of the interesting German movies in the last few years, and they seem to keep a certain level with the thrillers. Whether it was Blood Red Sky, Freaks or Breakdown Forest, there is some attempt at thinking differently instead of going with the usual things. Well, horror movies and thrillers are the only things which seem to keep me going in this world of chaos and hopelessness. There has been the down-feeling which came with the Corona virus which doesn’t seem to leave, and it feels worse as we are going back to the society. Still, when we see the hatred that is seen in movies like these, we feel that this is real, a reflection of the society that we know, the one full of liars and cheaters. We have to accept horror as a normal part of life, more real than romance and drama which are considered too real. With some more focus, this movie could have done better, and as of now, it goes on as a thriller which also a work of drama and mystery that takes over on many occasions. The movie works better than what some of the reviews had talked about.

Release date: 18th August 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 106 minutes
Directed by: Miguel Alexandre
Starring: Jolene Andersen, Alice Dwyer, Susan Angelo, Hanns Zischler, Mercedes Muller, Jonas Hansen

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

<<< Click here to go to the first German film reviewed here.

<<< Click here to go to the first full-length German film reviewed here.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Yara

Vampire Owl: Another Italian film? This is very soon.

Vampire Bat: Security was such a movie of higher class.

Vampire Owl: A Classic Horror Story was also a movie of class.

Vampire Bat: I am very much interested in investigations more.

Vampire Owl: Well, not all investigations work well enough.

Vampire Bat: Some can still be Memories or Cold Case.

Vampire Owl: And the others are just lost without any trace.

Vampire Bat: Some movies deserve to be lost completely.

Vampire Owl: Yet, some dumb mass masala movies become blockbusters of a life-time.

Vampire Bat: The dumb human fans. We don’t really need them to watch good movies. They are bloody disgrace to any civilized society.

[Gets a masala dosa and three cups of cardamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: In 2010, a 13 year old Yara Gambirasio (Chiara Bono), who is trying to be a rhythmic gymnast goes missing, after leaving Brembate di Sopra Sport Centre alone. On that snowy evening, she doesn’t reach her home which is less than a kilometres away. As she doesn’t pick up her phone either, her mother Maura Gambirasio (Sandra Toffolatti) goes searching for her in and around the sport centre, but is able to find no trace, except for the fact that she had left at 6:30 itself. Her father Fulvio Gambirasio (Mario Pirrello) is quick to report to the police station. All attempts to find her seems to reach nowhere, as if she had vanished into thin air. The police is not able to find any clue, as the signal of the mobile phone can’t be tracked, and nobody seems to have seen her on the way. She was actually not at the sports centre for her usual training, but to leave a radio there for practice.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Her friends tell the police officers that she didn’t spend that much of time there, and didn’t even stay to talk. The officer in charge, Letizia Ruggeri (Isabella Ragonese) decides to go to any extent to find the killer, even though there is not enough proof available. Then there is a story about a pervert who might have been spying on the girls, and therefore all male visitors were banned, even from visiting the boys who were practicing there. The police dogs seem to be on to something, but with no result – the CCTV all around the area is no exception. The family of Yara is disheartened, especially her sister who was very close to her. The police wonders if the family made some enemies, but that also ends without any positive results. They find the dairy of Yara which has some usual details, and no clue to someone who might be looking forward to kidnap her. Yara was never involved in anything terrible, as she was the near perfect girl in her actions. The people at the school and neighbours were also very happy about her.

And where does these search procedures lead as time is running out? :: Yara might be the one person who had the least probability of getting kidnapped, and the search goes on. Later, her dead body is found in the middle of nowhere, in an advanced state of decay, as if it has been there since the time when the girl had gone missing. This makes the situation more serious. Her head and body has blows with some blunt instrument, and the attacks feel to be continuous. But there has been so sexual violence, and that baffles the investigators. Letizia feels that the man who did this was insecure, and they should continue to be afraid of him doing the same thing again and again, unless they catch him soon enough. They have the DNA of the man who is supposed to be the attacker, but will that be enough? How big should the database would be in that case, as almost everyone who were in that area in those days needs to tested? Are these investigators good enough to find the culprit even then, as it has been too long, and enough time was there for the person to escape?

The defence of Yara :: The movie has an interesting investigation going on throughout its run, and there is no place for anything else. It is directly into the same, and any other incident or unrelated character won’t matter around here. In doing the same, Isabella Ragonese is successful as she portrays the main character, but she is all about the investigation only, as we look at the character. Chiara Bono’s presence as the teenage victim is small, but remains likable. Those who play the parents of the child, Mario Pirrello and Sandra Toffolatti also come up with some good work. Those who are familiar with the real-life incident might find the movie to be a lot more interesting. The ability of the movie to never go over dramatic can be appreciated, but that leaves it without emotions. A killer without a motive like in Forensic is always better than the vengeful fool in Anjaam Pathira – this film also gets that right with the reason. The murderer could be anyone, and the person should be found by procedure like shown here, and not by a psycho father with fascination for shades and coats like in The Great Father. Then you do love the locations here too.

The claws of flaw :: It is surprising that the police is providing too much of data about an unknown killer to the press – the murderer should be watching that, I would believe. When everything about a possible serial killer is left on the media, he should just be escaping or trying to murder the investigating officer in the usual movies. The film also goes slowly for any kind of thriller, and there is no real attempt to speed up things around here. At least decreasing the length of the already short movie would have been a fine choice – it is something that can go for a maximum of one and a quarter hours with this content before getting into the lagging level, without adding more moments of creative recreation. There were so many scenes which could have made the movie better, and they could have done that without making anyone angry – the small details can always come in, or some other unrelated, but still interesting incident could be of use. We know that the makers of movies don’t listen to us, but we the audience see the opportunities all the time.

How it finishes :: There is no doubt about the fact that Yara could have achieved more, as it already has the content ready with a real-life case – being inspired from real-life incidents do bring some restrictions on the creative imagination, but brings a better base to start working on. I would have expected the police department to do better in the early stages of working on the case too – being duped by a random person who don’t have that much of an intellect, money or influence feels rather strange; getting no clue is a little bit too much for any office. The movie’s closeness to a documentary might not be liked by everyone either – there is not much of a development of the main characters; one wonders if that is because of the feeling that there is the need to keep close to reality as much as possible. Even in a place where things can get controversial at all times, Virus based on real-life incidents did well, and so that can’t be an excuse. Still, this one goes through the procedures effectively, and comes out well out of the whole thing as a pretty well done investigation.

Release date: 18th October 2021 (Italy); 5th November 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 96 minutes
Directed by: Marco Tullio Giordana
Starring: Isabella Ragonese, Chiara Bono, Alessio Boni, Roberto Zibetti, Aiman Machhour, Mario Pirrello, Sandra Toffolatti, Thomas Trabacchi, Lorenzo Acquaviva, Donatella Bartoli, Andrea Bruschi, Guglielmo Favilla, Nicole Fornaro, Miro Landoni

<<< Click here to go to the previous review.

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Rurouni Kenshin

Vampire Owl: Isn’t this the second Japanese movie that we are watching?

Vampire Bat: Yes, they were mostly overshadowed by Korean and Chinese films.

Vampire Owl: The name is quite tough here.

Vampire Bat: Your soul will get used to such names.

Vampire Owl: Do you know that Japan is my dream country?

Vampire Bat: Japan is everyone’s dream country.

Vampire Owl: Except for the common vampires of our times.

Vampire Bat: Are you talking about the never-ending need to go to Romania?

Vampire Owl: Yes, the holy land dedicated to Uncle Dracula, especially on Halloween.

Vampire Bat: That trend had come down since the Russia invaded its neighbouring country, Ukraine. We, vampires are supposed to stay kilometres away from any terrible war caused by human kind. We are not violent people.

[Gets a porotta roll and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1864, and Japan is now open to foreign trade. This means that a few people seek to end the rule of Shoguns and bring back the authority of the empire, with some of the being ambitious and the others filled with ideals. They are forced to face each other, and fighting goes on only to make the situation worse in the island nation which seeks progress with trade and commerce. Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) who is also known as Hitokiri Battosai serves as a political assassin to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate which would eventually lead to the Meji Restoration and the later rise of Imperial Japan, finally leading to their participation in the Second World War and fall with the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The history goes a long way, and this is more like a civil war which will begin the events which will finally lead to a detailed epoch in the Japanese history with no security or value for human life. The young man of concern here, who is a skilled fighter with swords, joins the clan of Choshu, and begins to work with Katsura Kogoro (Issey Takahashi), their leader.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: During one of the fights in which he kills all the men, a member of the opposite gang refuses to die, and despite being impaled by sword multiple times, gives the assassin a cut on his face. This has Himura clearly disturbed instead of being cold with all the killings. Katsura understands that even after so many years of killing hundreds of men, his assassin is still not comfortable with killing people, a process which he keeps repeating. He feels that the young man hasn’t really grown up yet, and remains pure at heart, which means that there is no peace at heart. He is still the best fighter that he has known in years, but that wouldn’t change the heart. When Himura had earlier joined the group in a bid to overthrow the Shoguns, he hadn’t killed anyone, but the promise that he had shown was immense, unlike anyone whom he had seen among their fighters. He would keep on wondering if the man has finally has had enough of the fights and the brutal killings.

And what can bring a change to world which has only gotten worse with the civil wars? :: Katsura feels that there is the need to find a solution, as there is the need to end this continuous war, for which he needs as many hands holding the swords with expertise. Himura is still haunted by the memories of the man who refused to die, citing the reason of love in his life. One night, he goes on to have a drink of his own, and interferes when a lone woman named Yukishiro Tomoe (Kasumi Arimura) is bothered by a group of men who demand that the woman treats them with respect, and consider them as their heroes. After leaving the tavern, he is almost attacked by two drunkards from the tavern who are killed by an assassin with a chain. He manages to kill the assassin, but finds Yukishiro who had come to thank him, drenched in the blood of assassin, and she soon faints as a result of the shock from what she had just witnessed. He takes her back to his hideout, a place for the revolutionaries. The girl who feel thankful, decides to stay, much to his surprise, as he wonders why.

The defence of Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning :: The stylish action sequences begin the film’s progress very soon. The fights with the swords remain memorable, as there seems to be so much of speed and control related to them – it is like you take your eyes away from the screen for less than a second, and still you end up missing something. You are going to find it difficult to follow the pace of the very thin and agile swords which keep moving in all directions, but you enjoy what happens around. The characters remain interesting, and there seems to be something about almost everyone out there. The performers seem to be chosen with care, and the way they come up with the action scenes makes one wonder if they are really that well trained in all of these. Takeru Satoh leads well, Kasumi Arimura does the job with integrity. The movie nicely takes the fictional world and combines it with history. The emotional side also gains strength at times. The visuals are nice, not just with the big towns, but also with the nice little villages and the small homes surrounded by nature.

The claws of flaw :: The movie might feel to be too violent for at least a few people who are expecting more fights on the scene with blood and gore being hidden, but this is not really that martial arts or superhero movie to go through that route. This is also a little bit too long, considering the fact that the story is very much a predictable one, with not that much of innovation added here by looking at the possibilities in history. When action becomes the first and the one great choice, the plot suffers – it is quite a natural thing as we have seen in other movies – you just can’t satisfy everyone, and then the makers would prefer to go with what the crowd would like to see here. It seems to be very much hesitant to take the risk in different areas, when the challenges were present. The romance, even though present there, feels somewhat forced, even though the performers make it work without any trouble – after all, a love affair changing people all of a sudden is a stereotype which has been used for too long that we don’t really care about that anymore; then the ending which we can feel good enough to make a guess.

How it finishes :: This is not the franchise that we are familiar with, even though people of Japan should be very much familiar with the same. It is also based upon the manga series of the same name, which means more Japanese familiarity for sure – films inspired by comics have its own space like the video-game based works of our times. The movie takes the old style sword-fighting action to the next level, within its own charming setting – there will be no shortage of such action here. This is supposed to the fifth and final installment of this particular franchise about a nineteenth century assassin. But as it is also a prequel, it serves as a stand-alone movie which can be watched first, in the middle or last, and there is the placing in history which makes things easier to understand. Historical setting serve well when used with clarity and skill. We do feel that this a usual tragic tale about friendship and love in a world of war and chaos, but as we have the same arranged really well with the setting, the idea works effectively.

Release date: 4th June 2021 (Japan); 30th July 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 137 minutes
Directed by: Keishi Otomo
Starring: Takeru Satoh, Kasumi Arimura, Issey Takahashi, Nijiro Murakami, Masanobu Ando, Kazuki Kitamura Yosuke Eguchi

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

12th Man

What is the movie about? :: A few friends from college come together at a resort far away from civilization – Zacharia (Unni Mukundan), Mathew (Saiju Kurup), Nayana (Sshivada) Shiny (Anusree), Merin (Anu Sithara), Sidharth (Anu Mohan), Jithesh (Chandhunath), Sam (Rahul Madhav), Fida (Leona Lishoy), Aarathy (Aditi Ravi) and Annie (Priyanka Nair) come together with their families after a very long time. Zacharia and Annie had just found out that they are going to be parents. Sidharth and Aarathy are going to get married soon, and this particular party is on them. The resort is fully booked only for them, and a lot of facilities are available for them. As they play cricket, Siddharth’s big shot ends up hitting Chandrashekhar (Mohanlal), who is angry that he lost his bottle of liquor when the ball hit him. He asks for a replacement, but there are not bars or beverage shops nearby. To avoid him, the resort arranges some local toddy, but in the final stages, that also becomes becomes unavailable, and the group has to provide him with the alcohol. He accepts it and leaves.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: After Chandrasekhar leaves, the group decides to take it to the next level. There are too many calls attended by the participants of the programme, and they decide to make all calls and messages which reach their mobile phones during the time period public, in a game of trust. But it is not that simple a game as they had thought, despite Nayana and Fida supporting the same very much. In the first phone call itself, the problems between Zacharia’s mother and wife is revealed, as the former talks about latter’s pregnancy and related issues. Now, Zacharia is in support of the game, saying that let everyone go through the same situation. Two phone calls go on without creating much of a problem, but soon, Mathew’s financial problems are revealed to everyone. But that will not be the biggest revelation, and soon, there would be a revelation that would affect their friendship. Then, soon enough, there is a murder in the premises. Now, the question remains about what can happen next in this small world in the middle of nowhere? Who is the trouble maker here?

The defence of 12th Man :: What interests us the most here is the visual setting, and the atmosphere that it provides the catalyst to help the whole story. This is the kind of world where murders could happen without a trace. The beauty of the place is another thing, and that would surely make one want to visit the area, The twists are really well built in the movie after the death happens. There are different viewpoints being nicely explored around here. Most of the film keeps close to the three classical unities, and maintains its effectiveness using the short time period of the tale. The voice cast is also strong around here – Mallika Sukumaran, Kottayam Pradeep, Soubin Shahir, Aju Varghese and Murali Gopy. Mohanlal can be seen as nicely taking over control here from an environment in which there was nothing like that. He has played a different police officer, and excels in the second half. The movie does a fine job in exposing the fake friendships going on with masks always present there. It reflects how friendships over drinks are the quickest to break apart, and that those built on lies have no existence at all.

The claws of flaw :: Playing games in a building was earlier seen in the Bollywood movie Chehre. This movie takes a lot of times to get there. The final conclusion with the killer is not that conclusive. Some of the revelations are rather too predictable, and with a setting like this, they could have tried more to keep things smarter – this is not the same audience that the makers are facing, or OTT has changed their world by a long way, and the expectations won’t be the same. The initial moments with silly jokes based on the protagonist surely feels more dumb than ever; maybe it would have worked in the theatres with the fans sitting all around. The fans are known for making the nonsense a case of brilliance, but when a movie is releasing on OTT, it has to be smart, as the fans can’t create that kind of an influence, and there are people around the world who are judging this. The movie could have also used the environment in an even better way. Each character could have also been explored further, for there was a lot of talent out there. The film is also too long.

The performers of the soul :: Mohanlal is not present on the screen when a lot of interesting things happen around here. He has a terrible, mostly dumb entry in the beginning, which falls flat on its face, while going on becoming more and more irritating. It seems to be fashion to show drunk people becoming heroes. But later, after a murder happens, things only get better, and the character is finally given a true existence outside alcohol and talking nonsense. Mohanlal is completely in control of things in the later stages, as he leads the journey with efficiency. It is always nice to see the two sides of him – Bro Daddy was there on the other side. The next person to catch our attention is Leona Lishoy, the actress who has been seen as someone with different dimensions, always notable in any role that she plays, whether it is the mother in Annmariya Kalippilaanu, sister in Maradona or the investigator in Anveshanam; often rising above the movie itself. We knew how she fared in Mayaanadhi, and she comes up with the divergence here too. Some people do their roles rather too perfectly and she is one of them.

Further performers of the soul :: The next person who catches our attention is Anu Sithara, and she has played the good girl image really well – she does look different around here, and that also suits her. Anusree does the job of the most irritating female character of last few years after Srindha in Sherlock Toms. It does feel like a little too much at times. Priyanka Nair and Saiju Kurup are here after that interesting thriller called Antakshari, and both of them once again proves to be solid performers, even though not seen as a pair this time. Unni Mukundan does nothing heroic like in Meppadiyan, and has only a role which is at par or at times, a little below most of the others. Sshivada seems to be playing the one respectable character out there, who doesn’t keep secrets to save herself. Anu Mohan and Chandhunath comes into the picture strong enough. Rahul Madhav plays another character with more than what meets eye well, and that actually applies to all of them. Nandhu and Siddique gets rather smaller roles which they go through with ease. Aditi Ravi supports well within the group.

How it finishes :: When the name Jeethu Joseph is associated with any movie, we know that it will have something of relevance as far as the thrills are concerned. Even though Oozham did have a struggle to go through its nonsensical world, Memories and Drishyam were the biggest thrillers of the industry at that time. This movie attempts to get into that particular group of greatness too. Yet, the journey is not of that high quality, and never does it provide the innovation to feel that this is not something we haven’t seen before. The best movies are indeed the ones which have Jeethu Joseph writing and directing all by himself, but this one doesn’t have the script from him. Yet, this one surely goes on an interesting journey, with its own twists and turns in a setting which adds to the overall mood. I am always in support of a murder investigation mystery in which everyone is a suspect – with the perfect surroundings, things have a minimum guarantee.

Release date: 20th May 2022 (Hotstar)
Running time: 163 minutes
Directed by: Jeethu Joseph
Starring: Mohanlal, Unni Mukundan, Saiju Kurup, Anu Sithara, Leona Lishoy, Sshivada, Aditi Ravi, Priyanka Nair, Anusree, Anu Mohan, Rahul Madhav, Chaghunath, Nandhu, Pradeep Chandran, Chali Pala, Siddique

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Nightmare Alley

Vampire Owl: This could be the name of one of the halls in the castle.

Vampire Bat: There are already enough alleys with nightmares around here.

Vampire Owl: You think that vampires are affected by nightmares.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we just consider them as dreams.

Vampire Owl: Nightmares are just small part of the dreams.

Vampire Bat: You shouldn’t use the word “nightmare” anymore. It is overused.

Vampire Owl: We are the true nightmares, the living dead ones, right?

Vampire Bat: You feel that the nightmares can be true?

Vampire Owl: Now, you are acting like Dr Frankenstein.

Vampire Bat: You mean, like Mr Frankenstein! No, never!

[Gets an aloo paratha and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1939, and Stanton Carlisle a.k.a. Stan (Bradley Cooper) wanders around different cities of the United States of America, and while going on as a free guy, a drifter, gets a job at a big carnival which seems to have lit up the world of night beautifully. There, he notices a geek show in which he sees a man eating a live chicken. This performance which is also known as freak show, is always about a single man called a geek who chases live chickens and finally has him killing the bird and eating it alive. It was something common among circus and carnival professionals to be part of a troupe that included geeks. The geeks were often heavy alcoholics or drug addicts, and instead of money, liquor was used to pay them for the performance. In this case, the man who was part of the performance is seen to be further deranged than he is supposed to be. While he is working, Stan is told that the geek is now running around within their attraction, and they have to somehow catch him before he ruins the performances.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The geek seems to be hiding in a scary attraction, and attacks Stan, only to be taken down. He is taken into a cage, and he seems to be too violent and mentally disturbed to be fit for any show, seemingly getting close, but being out of death for now. But they keep him locked up with the feeling that people will love to look down on him and forget their own misery. It seems that many people like to enjoy that particular show, and is a major attraction which nobody wishes to miss, even though it is indeed costlier. After helping them to find the geek, Stan is offered a full time job at the carnival instead of that temporary one which was provided to him earlier. He is only happy to be with them as he has nowhere to go anymore. After using their tub, he begins working with the clairvoyant performer known as Madame Zeena, originally Zeena Krumbein (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband, Peter Krumbein a.k.a. Pete (David Strathairn). Zeena definitely feels that there is more to him than what meets the eye.

And what more is to follow in this interesting world? :: Mary Margaret Cahill a.k.a. Molly (Rooney Mara) also helps them at times, as Pete often losses control after drinking too much. But Molly also performs as the “Electric Girl Unforgettable”, seemingly taking electricity through her in one of the other star performances. Stan seems to be falling in love with Molly slowly, but steadily. The team of clairvoyance uses gestures, some coded language and certain cold reading tricks to make their work more effective. There are some fine guesses which work out of effectively at times, even though Pete is not fond of her pretending to speak to the dead. Pete shows the methods to Stan too, and he seems to be a very quick learner. Stan understands that the geeks are originally alcoholics whom he has forced to stay with opium-laced alcohol which has been affecting the minds of the geeks terribly. Most of them were affected by the First World War one way or the other. These geeks are nicely taken into the carnival where they become nothing less than slaves due to their addiction gone terribly wrong.

Then you look forward further in this movie, and what awaits us? :: As they are going on with the carnival, Germany has just started the invasion of Poland, setting the beginning of the Second World War. Things still seem to go normal at the carnival, as a new geek takes the place of the previous one who is dead. Stan asks Molly to leave the carnival with him, and start a new grand performance with him, which everyone in the United States of America, and all around the world will remember forever. But she is not ready to leave with him, as she has been a part of this performance and this particular place for quite a long time. Soon, Pete who keeps drinking more and more, finally dies out of alcoholic consumption. It is then that a sheriff comes there and threatens to close the illegal performance which has cruelty to humans and animals, while Molly who performs her act in her undergarments is to be arrested for too much of cleavage and thighs, thus enough indecency to be in the prison. Stan saves her and the whole carnival from the sheriff using the skills he had learned from Pete. As the sheriff leaves, Molly agrees to leave the Carnival with him, but what would the future hold in that case?

The defence and flaws of Nightmare Alley :: The movie has a beautiful world belonging to the past in store for us. Even though slow at times, it is an effective movement forward, which we are all going to enjoy. The time period during the Second World War is beautifully created, and we become a part of it. Even though there is the common idea that this is a psychological thriller, the movie is more of a drama rather than anything else. It might be due to its jumping through the genres that the movie feels slow, and the over all length does feel as a little too much for our liking. It is not the kind of world with which the director, Guillermo del Toro is at full strength – this could be the same reason why the director’s other movies continue to stay a few levels above this one. But the performances from Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara are too good, and they have us interested here throughout the movie. The others who don’t have a full run in the flick, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and others also have a fine run when they are around here. The movie also has a fine message running through here about what awaits an over-reacher who find evil to be okay.

How it finishes :: Nightmare Alley does have that feeling of watching the movies of Guillermo del Toro like before. Still, it doesn’t have any haunting creatures like in Crimson Peak or the huge robots fighting giant monsters like in Pacific Rim. This is also no Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water. The director does take a divergent path with ease, and successfully goes through the whole thing and keeps us engaged in the same. A movie without any supernatural element for him, and he still continues to be the visionary director like nobody else. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by the American writer William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946, and how well it has taken the spirit of the book will be known only to those who have read the book. The movie was nominated for four Oscar Awards, including the Best Picture, at the 94th Academy Awards held in Los Angeles in March 2022. Well, one would only feel that this is only deserving, as this is a film is a world which is for us to be immersed in, at all times.

Release date: 17th December 2021
Running time: 150 minutes
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Mary Steenburgen, Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

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.

Antlers

Vampire Owl: I haven’t seen a more interesting poster in a very long time.

Vampire Bat: Horror does need such posters to show divergence in fear.

Vampire Owl: Fear should always be the same, right?

Vampire Bat: Unless you are a vampire, or maybe zombie.

Vampire Owl: You are talking about a different smell of fear.

Vampire Bat: You should be aware of the fear potions of the witches.

Vampire Owl: Those potions never really work.

Vampire Bat: I know that you trust the pseudo-scientific elixirs of Mr Frankenstein better.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein has opened portals with elixirs.

Vampire Bat: Those were ancient portals found hidden in the caves beneath the castle!

[Gets a red velvet cake and three cups of cardamom tea].

What is the movie about? :: In the beginning, there is a warning that Mother Earth has been pillaged, with her life’s blood taken away, and this terrible act has awakened a spirit which needs to be feared – it would seek the lost, frail and the depraved, and asks the viewers to hope and pray that it won’t take one among them. The scene cuts to Cispus Falls, a small town in Oregon which feels dark with an eerie feeling. There, in an inactive mine, Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) runs a meth lab within an inactive mine which used to serve the town’s economy a long time ago. Frank and his co-worker hears some strange noises from within the mine, and goes on to check the same. As they doubt that it is an animal and tries to escape, find themselves attacked by an unseen creature. Frank’s son Aiden Weaver (Sawyer Jones) waits for him outside the mine, failing to understand what has happened inside. His elder brother as Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T Thomas) is considered to be strange by his classmates and teachers, but Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) who teaches about myths and fables is determined to help him.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Julia remembers the abuse she suffered as a child in the hands of her alcoholic father who was also mentally ill – she feels that he is also suffering from something similar. Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons), her brother is the local sheriff – she had abandoned him a long time ago, but has now returned home from California following the death of their father. She feels that she shouldn’t have left the place, and tries to help another person as she can, this time, Lucas. She tries to bond with him, but there is no success at all – she tries to visit his house, but leaves after hearing some strange noises from inside. Lucas seems to have some some mystery locked within his house, and also takes dead animals and birds to his home. He stays awake at night and makes strange drawings. Julia feels that she really needs to get to the bottom of this, and also informs her brother, who reaffirms that Frank was considered fit to be the guardian of the two children after the mother’s death – now, what would she do?

The defence of Antlers :: It can be seen that Antlers does take the deviation from the usual horror, and this divergence is taken seriously throughout its narrative – it lets the surroundings contribute to the same really well. The environment and the setting serve effectively for the movie too. The small town with its dark and wet weather really suits the situation presented around here, and there is enough of the woods to keep one going in the mood of terror. The idea of the “diabolic wickedness that devours humans”, the spirit that takes many forms, makes a powerful myth around here. There is also a connection made to the destruction of nature which the humans managed to come up with. One wouldn’t be able to blame the monsters considering how evil the humans happen to be at every point. We also have the moments of scares, and that gets stronger with the understanding that there is a seemingly unstoppable force of nature at work. Add the performance, especially from children, and things only get much darker and scarier in nature.

The claws of flaw :: There is no doubt about the fact that Antlers had the premise to be something greater, but doesn’t use the same to the best of advantage. We do see the moments which we feel could have been better. When you have such a near-unstoppable monster at the centre, there are many things that can be done – it could have surely been designed better too. The emotional side doesn’t seem to work that much, even though we are waiting for those elements to be effective too. The myth could have also been given a boost with certain elements from the past, and a history to be remembered. One can generate enough fear out of that too. The scope for sequel at the end seems to be forced, as if there was a certain need rather than anything else. One can feel the need to remind the viewer of a myth that goes missing, but that requires more of a better origins story with roots in a mysterious past – let the horror run through there too.

The performers of the soul :: Keri Russell has been among my favourite actresses from a long time ago – she carries a certain amount of charm with her roles, even though horror hasn’t been the genre we would remember her the most for. She would make it to the list of performers who don’t seem to age much as years pass. She blends in really well as this protagonist who has her own problems from childhood itself. Jesse Plemons supports her really well as the brother figure and the policeman. Jeremy T Thomas gets his moments as the struggling child who is forced to make too many decisions at such a young age. Scott Haze gets into the terrifying moments around here well. Sawyer Jones plays the other child of significance in a role which brings a fair challenge to him. Amy Madigan ends up having a smaller role to work with than what was expected. Rory Cochrane’s work is another thing of support here. The monster when shown, works as a performer by itself.

How it finishes :: Antlers keeps on moving the world of horror forward in a different path for a change, and the world of fear continues to make its points in one way or the other. One does feel that the Malayalam movie Odiyan could have learned a few things from this one with the creature attacks and the atmosphere to make it darker – if you see the looks, there seems to a visual connection. The earlier divergent horror movies like Malignant, Lights Out, It Follows and Don’t Breathe had scored better, but this one tries to make it count. Maybe, something like the creature in this movie is the need of environment itself to take care of the humans who are destroying nature as we have known it. Well, Corona virus did try, but they were not successful in getting rid of humanity and its use of science to destroy environment. It does make us feel that there can be the moment when nature can get it back running – The Blackout surely made us think about human extinction. Until something like that happens, let us enjoy this horror out of nature.

Release date: 29th October 2021 (Theatre); 15th December 2021 (Hotstar)
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Amy Madigan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Antakshari

Vampire Owl: This reminds us of the great game that we had in the castle.

Vampire Bat: The human game was indeed interesting.

Vampire Owl: Yet, humans play more of the evil games.

Vampire Bat: It is just a part of their evil nature.

Vampire Owl: Evil is part of their nature more than ever these days.

Vampire Bat: Can you guess how many evil humans are in this movie?

Vampire Owl: I am guessing that at least ninety five percent of them will be evil.

Vampire Bat: It is not really a big percentage for any group of humans.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein has determined it be as high as ninety nine most of the time.

Vampire Bat: I don’t think that this has anything to do with Mr Frankenstein and his fake experiments of no meaning.

[Gets a chicken samosa and three cups of orange tea].

What is the movie about? :: Circle Inspector Das (Saiju Kurup) is the officer in charge of a police station in the remote area of a hilly terrain, where Srinivas (Sudhi Koppa) joins as a probationary officer while hoping to solve a big case as soon as possible. Das gets into a fight with Vasudevan (Vijay Babu), who is a local leader of a prominent party, and also has multiple business interests. On the very next day, Das’ daughter is almost strangled to death by a man wearing a paper mask, saved only because of his wife Chitra (Priyanka Nair) noticing it at the right time. Despite threatening Das and his family before, Vasudevan denies any kind of involvement in the act, affirming that his problems are solved face to face, and there will be no hiding. Das has the habit of playing antakshari where each person sings a song, and the next person begins with the letter on which the previous person’s song ended. On the day on which his daughter was attacked, he had also received a call from an unknown number asking him to sing a song, or his daughter will be singing instead.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Their senior officer Jayachandran (Binu Pappu) and the local head constable Hariharan (Kottayam Ramesh) are not really fond of Das, as they are on the side of Vasudevan, and do not want him to solve too mysterious a case. He also comes against a strange, mute girl named Nayana (Ishita Singh) who has come to her grandparents’ home from Delhi. There is something about her, as she also seems to be hiding some secrets which nobody would want to know. Das and Srinivas slowly, but effectively connects the dots and finds out that similar murders have happened before, but police had closed the cases. Some of those murders were also considered to be accidents, and the deaths of the fathers after the murders of their children were considered to be accidents or suicides as a result of alcoholism and depression. The two officers end up finding a chain of events which lead a long way back, but will they be able to find the person behind it in time or is there another murder on the path?

The defence of Antakshari :: The movie has a police officer who is rather ordinary, and it has his struggles in finding the psychotic murderer, who is really that crazy as in Forensic, and very unlike the non-psychotic revenge seeker in Anjaam Pathira. The cop doesn’t have that much of a flaw as the protagonist of Memories, but is very much relatable with a usual kind of family and personal problems. The movie is shot nicely, and with some fine performances, leaves scope for a possible sequel – despite the low chances, we hope that such an attempt is made; there are also other similar trials of investigation which can be combined with this one to create a shared universe. Such a sequel can also talk about those elements of this movie which seems lost, and maybe, it can be a serial killer universe instead of a cop universe. This is the kind of movie which Bollywood would use to make a super-cop, but thankfully, we don’t leave it in their hands. The movie doesn’t take the predictable path either, as there seems to be the possibility of fun discovered in taking the road less taken, on the lines of Robert Frost.

The claws of flaw :: Antakshari is quite slow in its progression, and there are characters who don’t really play much of a role in moving the tale forward. A few things also go without explanations. The whole saga of one family with an abusive father, frustrated mother, music-playing son and cat-loving daughter facing a mysterious girl don’t fit in here at all – neither do the broken guitar and dead cat. This is that kind of a family which could have been there for namesake, but so much of time is wasted on them. If a red herring was intended, that should have been a part of the storyline – there was another villain out there who could have served the same. The young engineering student who is in love with a mysterious mute girl makes no sense, even if the vampires were to turn cent percent vegetarian. Without these moments, the movie could have been shorter, and the pacing could have surely been better. This one lets the lost moments go lost rather than get it back and link them. There were so many paths that this film could have taken, that is for sure.

The performers of the soul :: Saiju Kurup shines really well as the police inspector who has this investigation on a personal level rather than anything else, like Joju George of Joseph. He has been one actor who didn’t get enough opportunities to lead, but this is one chance which he holds on to. He is someone who suits this kind of a police officer really well. Sudhi Koppa plays the role of the supporting officer well, and it is also not a role he is stranger to. He is another performer whom we need to see very often, as there seems to be a lot of requirements for quality actors rather than entertainers. Binu Pappu doesn’t have that good and understanding police officer role here, but does this shade with ease. Priyanka Nair who did have some fine roles years ago has another one to remember here. Among all the roles being performed here, Ishita Singh’s role remains the one which doesn’t seem to give us any idea of its purpose of existence – feels like an absurd side around here, even though she suits the character. The rest of the characters mostly just have to play along here, but more notable are the woman and child from the flashback. Vijay Babu has a small role.

How it finishes :: Like Salute, Antakshari is another movie which doesn’t depend on the foolish mass masala to go through investigations by police officers. It is very good and effective because it doesn’t cater to those brainless fans who visit the theatres and get a movie crores of business while losing all their money to petrol, parking fees, highly expensive food and others. This movie is for the others, who look out for the new releases on OTT platforms, as the Corona virus pandemic has shown us that it is indeed the right thing to do. Well, you have the choice not to go to the theatre and watch those foolish dance and music to which insanity is unleashed in between a story – I would call for the lack of the same every time. The mass masala genre itself is a fake thing created for the superstars and their children to call their fans to the theatres and by creating the fake vibes, they make the rest of the audience feel that the movie is fantastic – lets see how long these star kids who fly around beating people and doing dumb romance will go. After that, you can come back to good movies like this one.

Release date: 22nd April 2022 (Sony LIV)
Running time: 122 minutes
Directed by: Vipin Das
Starring: Saiju Kurup, Priyanka Nair, Sudhi Koppa, Vijay Babu, Binu Pappu, Thomas Kunnampuzha, Shabareesh Varma, Sruthy Suresh, Kottayam Ramesh, Boban Samuel, Sandeep Pradeep, Ishita Singh

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Out of Death

Vampire Owl: I am sure that this is about us. We are the undead.

Vampire Bat: This is not really about coming out of death as undead.

Vampire Owl: I don’t see any other way for anybody to come out of death.

Vampire Bat: Your favourite doctor might have some plans about that.

Vampire Owl: Doctor Frankenstein is not a doctor, but a scientist.

Vampire Bat: Mr Frankenstein is a duplicate scientist, and a half-doctor.

Vampire Owl: Well, he has created undead out of nothing.

Vampire Bat: They were pretty much undead already.

Vampire Owl: There has been a difference in the two states.

Vampire Bat: An undead being killed and revived won’t make much of sense.

[Gets a paneer masala dosa and three cups of Munnar tea].

What is the movie about? :: Shannon Mathers (Jaime King), a journalist who is trying to scatter her father’s ashes on the top of a mountain witnesses Billie Jean (Lala Kent) going through a drug deal with a gangster. It doesn’t go right, as the latter is shot by the former after he is found recording their deal on the phone. After the murder, she gets rid of the body too. Shannon also has photos of the incident on her camera. At the same time, Retired cop Jack Harris (Bruce Willis) seems to be having some relaxed moments with his niece Pam Harris (Kelly Greyson). Soon enough, Billie realizes that there is someone else in the area where the murder was committed, and Shannon barely manages to run away. She calls the other corrupt police officers, Hank Rivers (Michael Sirow) and Tommy Rivers (Tyler Olson), who decide to lock all the exits from the area that leads outside, along with getting rid of the body in time. Soon, it seems that there are too many of corrupt officers out there, and they are all after Shannon.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Shannon had also came there to prove her father wrong, that she could hike through this place unlike what her father had thought. Now, this is not what she had actually thought she would be facing. Jack also feels that it is not what he should be doing, as he comes across Billie trying to shoot Shannon, and rescues her. As they keep running, Shannon ends up stabbing Billie. As Tommy and Hank find no hope for Billie to survive as she bleeds out, they put her out of her misery, and hopes that they can pin that on Shannon, as there is the knife with her fingerprints. As she also manages to shoot Tommy, the only way out of her now seems to be with the evidence that she had captured with her camera, as she has almost become labelled as a junkie who has killed two police officers. Now, Hank won’t step back on vengeance as Tommy was also his brother. Now, it seems that the only way out for him is through Pam. But how will that work out for him now?

The defence of Out of Death :: The movie serves as a survivor thriller which is better than the other one movie with survival of a witness in the woods, Those Who Wish Me Dead which had Angeline Jolie saving the target – that one also released in the same year, and had one veteran performer trying to get into action. With Jaime King around, things only get better. There are some nice visuals of the woods, and we have some nicely planned dialogues in here too. The movie can boast about that strong female protagonist as much as the carefully picturized antagonist who seems to be the only man around there with a perfect plan which seems to work. The lesser known cast also deliver so well, and unlike what one feels in the beginning, Lala Kent is a fine surprise. The movie can also be considered as one of the least violent movies with a theme like this, as there is no more than three people who dies around here, even with so many possibilities of danger being present here – things go further away from death like the title suggests.

The claws of flaw :: There is nothing special that gets added here, and even with Bruce Willis all prepared to go big action, you don’t really get that here either. Most of the events of the movie are also predictable, and that feeling goes on with the ending too. A few twists being added here and there could have helped the film’s purpose better. The police officers being smarter and tougher would have done the trick better – the lady police officer is left to mess up thing more and more as the story progresses. The gunshots effects are badly used, and the change for some big action with guns and hands are not used. The possibility of adding some terrifying sequences is also not taken – after all this is more or less like the forest area in countryside with a vast amount of woods. The drama in the movie moves on the usual lines too, and the main characters struggles could have also been shown in a better way. After all, she is someone who could contribute more at all times. The nature does look beautiful enough, but could have added more here.

The performers of the soul :: With Bruce Willis around, this could feel like a Die Hard in the woods, even though he is not of that much of a strength here. There is also not much of a strength for fighting for him as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Escape Plan, The Expendables or the latter as The Terminator in Genisys and Dark Fate. He seems much more tired in comparison, and he also leaves to the fighting to Jaime King, as he is left with holding the gun and pointing it at people, along with some nice dialogues added to it. This is more or less the shadow of the action king whom we have seen in the past. Jaime King is left to do all the action instead, and we know her from enough action and horror movies, as she is very much capable here, outdoing herself in the second half of the movie. Lala Kent plays the next most notable character here, and the film could have actually done more with here, instead of getting rid of the character too early. Tyler Olson is fine, while Tyler Olson who is a fine antagonist could have been used better with action scenes added to her rather than limiting him to talks.

How it finishes :: As one of the most non-violent movies belonging to the survival and crime thriller genre, this one makes fine use of the available resources in a seemingly low budget setting. It never tries too hard at anything, but manages to be interesting with what it has in hand. You are not supposed to expect a full action movie, as there is the main character trying to escape from trouble all the time, and having police officers on the hunt. Even though Bruce Willis remains mostly non-violent, you have to love how Jamie King steps into this one. Having a movie without Bruce Willis beating up, shooting or injuring anyone even when there were so many chances – feels strange, but it is indeed true. Well, change is inevitable, even though we expect the same thing from a superstar all the time, no matter how old he is – well, the curse of the Indian movies, isn’t it? But this one has the superstar of the past going through the more believable path.

Release date: 16th July 2021
Running time: 95 minutes
Directed by: Mike Burns
Starring: Jaime King, Bruce Willis, Lala Kent, Kelly Greyson, Mike Burns, Michael Sirow, Tyler Olson

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.