Bhoothakaalam

Vampire Owl: So, the title could mean the days of the past as well as the days of the ghost.

Vampire Bat: It is a nice play on the words being used here.

Vampire Owl: Do you think that Malayalam movie industry can have good horror anymore?

Vampire Bat: Well, horror is the only reality of life. So, it is always possible.

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that the realistic tendencies of the industry can help.

Vampire Bat: Yes, what is life, but a collection of horror of reality?

Vampire Owl: I can’t disagree. I once heard the story of the devil finding the burning hell as a better place to live in comparison to Earth.

Vampire Bat: Well, you know what humans are capable of. They have already made their world a place worse than hell.

Vampire Owl: So, who are the real monsters?

Vampire Bat: Humans are the real monsters, from the day of birth itself. You should see how they torment their own people.

[Gets a chicken biriyani and three cups of elaichi tea].

What is the movie about? :: Vinu (Shane Nigam) is a D.Pharm graduate who is living with his mother, Asha (Revathy) in what seems to have been a very unhappy household since the death of Vinu’s father post leaving a lot of money to be paid back for the loans which were taken. His grandmother dies after living most of her life on the bed after a terrible stroke which she barely survived, and the life of mother and son which was full of negativity only gets worse after the demise. Vinu has been looking for a job for a long time, but as he is focusing on getting some work in his field, and is also trying to keep the search close to home, he is not really able to make any progress with that. Depression seems to come naturally to him, as well as his mother, who is a school teacher for small children. Asha is also hesitant to send him anywhere distant, especially to go for a job which is not directly related to the course which he studied. She also temporarily losses her job, as she ends up hitting a child accidently.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The mother and the son continues to have arguments over the past, present and future, as Vinu decides to find a job outside Kerala or even India at some hotels where his friends are working. Asha finds him as a rather useless person, as she originally wanted him to study MBBS, and they had spent a lot of money related to that too. But soon, things get worse, as Vinu feels that he was locked within a room by his dead grandmother, who moves around in the wheel chair. Asha feels that he needs counselling, but he doesn’t agree. George (Saiju Kurup) who runs a counselling centre comes home to help him, but Vinu is not happy about it at all, as he feels that he is being marked as an alcoholic and drug addict. George also feels that the sleeplessness might also be a reason, along with the mental problems which runs within the family. Vinu is in love with Priya (Athira Patel), but has stopped returning her calls, as he does almost nothing, while staying in his room, or in front of the television. But he continues to see and feel things – can this mean something else?

The defence of Bhoothakaalam :: Starting off as a movie which seems to have characters with some mental problems related to trauma, it smoothly enters the horror mode after some time. With many options being left behind, one can make different guesses about what actually happened. The minimum elements are used effectively, and the atmosphere of the house also brings a certain amount nostalgia – like our old houses which had mosaic on the floor along with some old style furniture as well as spaces on the wall. The darkness and shadows are pretty much effective in bringing the scares, and there is much to be felt about the possible presence in the house – they contribute to reaching a point where the title can be justified. The emotional side is also very much working, and there is much of the feelings going through here. Even with all the terror coming from outside, there is also the presence of the depressing past related to regret which continues to haunt everyone – the memories can be disorienting enough, as we move forward through a world of chaotic mind here too.

The claws of flaw :: Bhoothakaalam often restricts itself in the use of horror, except for the finally fifteen to twenty minutes when the film is finally allowed to unleash itself, bringing all the elements which it had in store, but didn’t use early enough. It does take its own time, and one feels that it is moving too slowly during that period of time. There are movies which slowly gets stronger, like Come Play, In Fear and It Follows, and one might feel that this might not feel that new with the early slow movement. The mind could have been given better focus, and the presence in the house could have also been better explained, thus leading to a better final finish. It is surely not that scary as some people seem to talk about it – there is something to be frightened about, but not that much as what the reviews exaggerate here, for only those who haven’t watched Hollywood horror movies at all can be that scared about it. After all, these are not the days when people are scared of ghosts that much, because humans have proven themselves to be more evil, each and every time. Ghosts have to be a special kind of scary to rise about human demonic acts.

The performers of the soul :: Shane Nigam continues his work more out of Kumbalangi Nights rather than the other movies, as he once again plays a similar youth who doesn’t really have a job for a multitude of reason, even though he is better educated this time. Revathy’s work continues to be a thing of quality, as he plays a mother role with a difference. There are moments which rises above the natural so well. James Eliya seems to be the man with logic, and has his moments of advice. Jilu Joseph has a small presence as a psychiatrist, as it is Saiju Kurup who deals with the counselling more, and even finds out a few secrets about the house – one would have loved to see more actions being taken by him here. Manju Pathrose plays the usual nosy neighbour, a role which is quite short. Valsala Menon played the grandmother, and that was the role which also lasted for only a few minutes as the movie continues to focus on the mother-son duo for almost all the time. Athira Patel is more or less the Mamitha Baiju of Operation Java coming in here as the seemingly forced love affair which in this case doesn’t reach anywhere in comparison.

How it finishes :: When we think about ghosts and past, the first movie which comes to our mind is Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, a Gothic romance horror which was not watched by that many people in this part of the world. But the past that haunts this movie is more or less related a good number of other horror movies, with one haunted house as well as a psychological side, both complimenting each other, sometimes from a distance, and at times, getting close enough and going through one another in style. Bhoothakaalam doesn’t hesitate to combine its elements, and then come up with the defining moments in the final stages of the film. This is surely a good deviation from the usual horror movies that we have in the Malayalam movie industry, and just like some of the other Sony LIV movies which released in the last few months, like Madhuram and Kaanekaane, this one also has a strong emotional side to go with. Well, you can also have some interesting horror with relationships running emotional in the background, for the ghosts are better and truer with their emotions than the fake humans.

Release date: 21st January 2021 (Sony LIV)
Running time: 105 minutes
Directed by: Rahul Sadasivan
Starring: Shane Nigam, Revathy, Athira Patel, Saiju Kurup, Manju Pathrose, James Eliya, Jilu Joseph, Valsala Menon

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

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Whole Truth

Vampire Owl: There is a lot of talk about truth going on around here.

Vampire Bat: It is something that humans never try to speak.

Vampire Owl: Humans haven’t been close to truth for a long time.

Vampire Bat: Truth just doesn’t suit them. They are basically liars. You cannot blame them for going back to their basic nature.

Vampire Owl: Their basic nature is related to robbery and murder.

Vampire Bat: It is really difficult to talk about human nature. They are pure evil.

Vampire Owl: Yes, which is why many witches travel to their world and try to kill a few of them or transform them into better creatures like cats and dogs.

Vampire Bat: It is the same reason why we don’t have Vampire Cats anymore.

Vampire Owl: Human existence has no real meaning related to anything other than evil.

Vampire Bat: If Corona virus makes them go extinct, it can be called a pure evil thing.

[Gets a marble cake and three glasses of mango shake].

What is the movie about? :: Mai (Nicole Theriault) is living happily with her two children, Pim (Sutatta Udomsilp) and Putt (Mac Nattapat Nimjirawat) in the city of Bangkok, until she meets with an accident on her way back home from office, on the same day that she received a promotion at her office. She is now in a coma, and even though out of critical situation, has to stay in the ICU. It is then that their grandparents come to visit them – Phong (Sompob Benjathikul) and Wan (Tarika Tidatid) takes them to their ancestral home. The house is quite a large one, and Phong says that Wan is not really well, and due to her dementia, she also needs some taking care of. At the same time, Mai has some severe injury to her brain, and it will take some time for her to get better. Until then, the two siblings will have to stay in their ancestral home, even though they are not really comfortable about it. They take everything from home, and place them at the new place, as they feel that they are for a very long time. But this doesn’t seem that good a place for them.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: Soon, the cat which they brought there from the original home is no longer found. They are also able to find a hole on the wall, which the grandparents don’t find to be present. They blame the children for making up things which are not there, and advises them to stop looking for cats. There is something going on in the house, and it feels really strange for the siblings. When Putt looks through the hole, he sees a strange girl on the other side, and it does seem like a strange house on the other side there. At the same time, Fame (Sadanont Durongkaweroj), a boy who studies with Pim, comes to the house and warns them about leaking a video of her showering in the gym. He is also not able to see the hole on the wall either, but is pulled to the wall, hurting his nose. He leaves the place with a broken nose, telling Pim that he will leak her naked video on the internet. As the grandmother reaches home, she sees the blood on the floor and losses her mind for a few minutes. Pim and Putt understand that things can get only worse from there, as there are some secrets out there.

The defence of The Whole Truth :: Even though this particular movie is from Thailand, there is the feeling of watching a Korean film – that kind of quality is here with the visuals. It also gets into action quite fast, and we are glad to follow it around early enough. The idea of the hole in the wall which provides some strange visions is nice, especially with the arrangements on the other side. The feeling of danger is always effectively there. This does bring some scares, but the film is more about mystery, revealing a few things about human nature, rather than anything else. The theme of the movie is related to how people only give half truths, manipulating everything to suit their own versions. The film also has a nice way of revealing everything, through visions and incidents. The way that it keeps us in suspense is good, as we are not really sure which way it is to go, not just about the ghostly figure, but also about how the leading lady’s situation would be, in the school – there are even twists about her life there, and the supernatural only comes later.

Positives and negatives :: The Rings creature feeling is there for sure, as if to provide something like a repetition, for that is one demonic presence which everyone has liked for a long time. There were also so many more possibilities for the incidents of the movie to progress, and it could have used better clarity at some parts. The ending could have also been more direct. There are moments when it makes us feel that this is going to be like The Visit, but it is surely not going that way. Also, the movie’s drama feels a lot like Indian films at times, and therefore, it is more relatable to our audience. The ghost here more like the past which continues to haunt us, reminding us of a few dialogues in Crimson Peak. The idea of the ghost trying to tell the truth, or rather the whole truth is not something new, but this one takes different steps towards it. The way in which this movie changes your expectations in between, is also notable. There is no early clue about what we have in the end, for the twists work in that way, and make this one effective.

Performers of the soul :: Among the performers, it is Sutatta Udomsilp who stands the strongest, as the elder grandchild and sister who has to stay strong in the absence of her mother. She reflects a number of scream queens which we have seen in Hollywood movies, and still has a lovely touch of divergence that relates her to horror movie stars of Bollywood too. She expresses herself incredibly well throughout the different events, from the emotional ones to the scary ones. Nicole Theriault has only the first few minutes as the mother, as she gets to face the car accident too soon, waking up much late. Mac Nattapat Nimjirawat plays the young brother figure who is weakened, pretty well. Sompob Benjathikul plays the grandfather figure with a lot of strength, while Tarika Tidatid fits into the grandmother role with ease. Sadanont Durongkaweroj plays the usual creepy boy who reminds one of the Drishyam boy who got buried under the police station, after capturing the video of the showering girl. Thasorn Klinnium, who is only there for a few minutes, also has her contribution.

How it finishes :: The Whole Truth is the first Thai movie at Movies of the Soul, and it did come late, when we look at the foreign language movies at the website. Even though there have been many movies which came close to becoming the first, this one finally made it way here through Netflix. It is rather surprising that we have already had Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian movies here to add to a South East Asian list, there hasn’t been any from Thailand. This movie changes that in style. Movies like Furie, Impetigore, The Wandering Earth and Train to Busan were all movies which had something special in their own ways, coming from different countries and languages. The Whole Truth proved to be a fine example with which to start Thai films. When we had visited Pattaya and Bangkok, we did really want to watch a movie or two, but that didn’t happen because of the busy schedule of the trips. At least, that desire is fulfilled for now. As we go through the beginning of the new year, let us hope that more wishes can be fulfilled in 2022.

Release date: 2nd December 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 125 minutes
Directed by: Wisit Sasanatieng
Starring: Sutatta Udomsilp, Tarika Tidatid, Sompob Benjathikul, Sadanont Durongkaweroj, Steven Isarapong, Thasorn Klinnium, Mac Nattapat Nimjirawat, Keetapat Pongrue, Nicole Theriault

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

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Ezra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ezra

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

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Vampire Owl: I feel that this movie is totally against our own existence.

Vampire Bat: What? Why do you think so?

Vampire Owl: They are talking about the origin of evil. We are not supposed to speak about the origins of pure evil. It is so much against the tradition.

Vampire Bat: The humans know nothing of the origin of evil. This is just what they imagined on one jobless day.

Vampire Owl: So, it is not against our vampire beliefs?

Vampire Bat: Not at all! Don’t believe most of the things that these humans say.

Vampire Owl: I have believed in not believing in them. They are hypocrites.

Vampire Bat: See, I have told you that for centuries.

Vampire Owl: But, still we will watch this movie, won’t we?

Vampire Bat: Yes, I am assured of the entertainment in this one.

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

What was the first movie about? :: The protagonist of the movie, Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke) is searching for answers as she hopes that she could have done something for her best friend Debbie Galardi (Shelley Hennig) who had committed suicide, and she laments the fact that she was the last one to talk to her and yet couldn’t stop her from doing such an act. As she finds an Ouija board in her house, along with her sister Sarah (Ana Coto) and other friends of Debbie, Pete (Douglas Smith), Trevor (Daren Kagasoff), and Isabelle (Bianca A. Santos) decides to try and contact their recently deceased friend. Soon, they contact a spirit which addresses them as friends, but what they are not aware of is that Debbie already had made a connection to the other world which lead to her death, and they understand that more than one entity is now free. The friends realize that they will just be killed one after the other and there will be no stopping the terror. [Read the full review of the first movie here]

What is this movie about? :: A relative to the dead people returning as spirits, Paulina (Lin Shaye) who resides in a mental asylum seemed to be the key to stopping the evil in the first movie. This flick goes back, and tells her story as a prequel. In the 1960s, a widow named Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) acts as a spiritual medium to help people who are sad and attached to the dead people who used to be close to them – she makes sure that they let the past go and move on with their lives, accompanied by her daughters, the older one, Paulina (Annalise Basso) and the younger one Doris (Lulu Wilson). This is more of a fake show which the three comes up with, using some nicely executed plans. They don’t consider them to be bad, as they believe that they are only helping people in pain to help people to go ahead in their lives rather than living in sadness and pain.

So, what happens next? :: Most of these sessions end with the spirits forgiving the living, which gives them peace of mind. But one day, Alice adds an Ouija board to this programme, which changes things by a long way. They will end up breaking almost all the rules associated with this board. But they initially don’t realise this, with Doris finding some money inside the walls of the house, which lets them keep their home with them, paying for the debts. Alice believes that it is her dead husband communicating with them, and helping them with their lives, and Doris also thinks that it is her father. But Paulina is suspicious about this, even though Alice assures that this is only for the good, as they will now be able to help people by contacting the other world for real. Father Tom Hogan (Henry Thomas) is suspicious about something strange happening with his students, and realizes that the three ladies are going through a dangerous stage, as evil has already made its stand.

The defence of Ouija: Origin of Evil :: As we remember the predecessor, for which this is the prequel, we can be sure that there is a lot of improvement at work even when there was the need to end this movie in such a way that the connection is made well enough. They have managed to create a better work here, not just with the outside looks, but also on the inside, with better scares, and without doubt a better story. The movie scores with the “evil child” idea more than anything else, as the possessed kid is a level higher than any other – Lulu Wilson scores there, as the little demon gets all the applause with the best moments in the movie. Annalise Basso is not far behind as the other kid, belonging to the age, and bringing the scepticism to us. Along with that, Elizabeth Reaser remains strong as the mother figure. The cast and the setting plays a big role in making this movie a success and claim a good seat among the rest of the horror movies with their own spirits.

The claws of flaw :: There are limitations placed on this movie, and without doubt, it is the work of the previous movie, where this one had to reach as a prequel and kind of an origin story. If this one had come earlier, in the regular order, things would have been better for sure with the second movie too. We could have surely had more terror in the final few moments with a surprise finish – but this one chooses to go simple, which is not a bad thing, but with the spirit being so evil, there was bigger potential. There could have been more appearances of the spirit, and even some visuals from the terrible past of the spirit when it was human. Well, there is always more that we can do with an Ouija board, and this one doesn’t cover them all for sure. Maybe, all the best things are left for a third movie, and we can hope for the same. Still, one will feel that this is nothing like The Conjuring. This doesn’t go divergent like Don’t Breathe and Lights Out either.

How it finishes :: Just like I had mentioned in the review of Before I Wake that came before this opinion, Mike Flanagan at the helm has brought the horror genre back where it belongs. We had the Canker Man in that one, and we have the old fashioned possession along with the haunting in this one. Absentia, Oculus, Hush and the upcoming Gerald’s Game right out the Stephen King book of the same name – well, he is someone we horror fans are going to trust for, a period of time which resembles eternity if it is to go on like this. Ouija: Origin of Evil has an improvement from its predecessor which almost all the viewers are going to appreciate – after all, a movie about Ouija board should do well, as it is something on which a horror movie should be made more often. Well, we get to hear about it more than the usual local ghost, so why not we have more movies in this franchise?

Release date: 21st October 2016
Running time: 99 minutes
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Parker Mack, Henry Thomas, Lin Shaye, Halle Charlton, Alexis G. Zall, Doug Jones, Kate Siegel, Sam Anderson, Ele Keats, Nicholas Keenan, Michael Weaver

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Dark Shadows

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✠ The rating given to this movie might shock a few mortals, but as this blog written from the Vampire Bat’s perspective, he has decided to take control to fulfill his partially broken promise to that Count who lived as a recluse inside a coffin in a castle. Yes, the Vampire Bat doesn’t broke promises, or rather doesn’t break anything other than may be, his own teeth – blame the root canal offers from local dentists in that case. To add to it, the Vampire Bat shall write this review on a Wednesday, as he was born on such a day. He is mentally depressed after writing a test, and after asserting what he had found out that each and every other person of his world wants the questions from the syllabus while he wants the same from outside. May be he never belonged to the world of humans, and should rather fly away one day. But the depressing side is that he can’t fly – so he will write a bloody review about one of his favourite vampire movies, and undoubtedly his favourite blood sucking movie of 2012. Yes, this is that movie.

Count Dracula: Here you are again. I think that your review of Dark Shadows has been pending for long. Do you have it with you? Its time Barnabas Collins gets his due. He is one of those few vampires who could see McDonalds and feel the presence of Mephistopheles. He is our saviour against Twilight and Mortal Instruments creatures of pseudo-darkness.

Vampire Bat: I can see that you feel the need for some good vampires like Barnabas Collins and Victoria Winters. I love that scene when he sees M for McDonalds: Over 1 billion served. He was accidently quite right about the fast food and the beverages being the demons who suck the soul out of our insides, leaving us nothing of much use. Twilight and Mortal Instruments are the result of the same fast food, as they mess up our brain rather than the stomach.

Count Dracula: So what do you think about this vampire and his family? I did feel the presence of other wonderful forces of the supernatural right from outside the theatre where it was showing – I was wandering around in the mist until I crashed on the wall of that place, it was not good for my fangs, but still felt good for the presence.

Vampire Bat: Barnabas returns 196 years later, after feeling the wrath of unrequited love from a witch, Angelique Bouchard who cursed him into a bloodsucker, killed his parents and also forced his true love to commit suicide. She is a witch who curses his family and gets him buried alive in the middle of a forest, takes over his family business and puts his descendents into ruin. The worst thing is that the witch is still alive, using her magic to identify herself as her own descendants. This love has always been so overrated, right?

Count Dracula: Yes, even with me it is the same. I already feel a lot of love for Angelique Bouchard. Eva Green is that good, and I still can’t forget The Dreamers. I can remember my first infatuation with a witch already. Why would he not return the love baffles me. Whom does he have instead?

Vampire Bat: There is Bella Heathcote taking rebirth, from Josette du Pres to Victoria Winters. She appears as if an enchanting fairy vampire, not as some random Bella. But the two characters you will surely love are Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Chloë Grace Moretz’s Carolyn who asks “are you stoned or something” to which the recently risen Barnabas says “they tried stoning me dear, it did not work”. To add to it, he calls a lava lamp “pulsating blood urn”, and the crane as “a giant dragon with millions of teeth and a thousand shining eyes” – you have to love him. His seriousness is awesome!

Count Dracula: I have felt that myself, rising from the grave and seeing the world different. I know you feel the change each and every day. The world is indeed to fast, and I am sure that most of us hope that each and every day we go to sleep, we never wake up again. I wish for the sunlight to disappear, and you hope for the day to end, and there is not much different in how we see the world, and we are as outdated as Barnabas Collins; it is just that we have no lover witch.

Vampire Bat: Yes, I have always thought that, and Dark Shadows makes sure about the same. Moretz is wonderful in the movie, and the way she says “I’m a werewolf, okay? Don’t make such a big deal over it” to her mother, and always special mention needs to be for Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter. Meanwhile, if you don’t like Bella Heathcote in this movie, you have to be blind – not that closing of eyes you do with sunlight, but the real blindness of the physical world.

Count Dracula: You make the point there. I have read about the many faces of Johnny Depp too, and I shall not doubt him at any moment. This face is my favourite indeed, and then comes that Jack Sparrow followed by the crow-carrying head in The Lone Ranger. Then comes Sweeney Todd and The Hatter – who won’t love Alice in Wonderland by the way, and they were two special characters. I am not going to count the faces of such a versatile actor, as that won’t even please my coffin. Instead tell me more about Eva Green.

Vampire Bat: Her character has angel in her name and some strange love which keeps her in the attitude that “If I can’t have you, my love, I’ll destroy you!” – not that much of hatred as she keeps him alive; should be too much admiration. She tries everything she can, but true love finally wins – not really a surprise, isn’t it? Eva Green is fantastic in the movie, as she is beautiful, charming and perfect as the pretty witch. The cast itself is the real strength of the movie. With such awesome names involved with it, who would not wish to watch this movie? The comedy is also well done.

Count Dracula: That sounds like interesting stuff. A vampire movie with all of these? That should cure me from the death strike which fell on me with Twilight and Mortal Instruments. I shall have a new life of blood. You should have reviewed this one much earlier – remember how long ago I had told you to do the same?

Vampire Bat: Despite the good box-office returns, the ratings haven’t been good with it. I would think that it is the result of an anti-vampire sentiment and possible cruelty which has been unleashed on vampire movies due to terror which was Twilight and all the sequels that followed tried desperately to destroy man’s faith in vampires. No wonder Byzantium didn’t release at this part of the world. There is only one chance for us to reclaim that lost faith, or rather two – release a movie from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, or create the much needed sequel to this movie which has left a good chance for another story by the end of it.

Count Dracula: It is much needed, that is for sure! These undead creatures are bothering me too much just because they had to watch Twilight. Even the wolves no longer listen to me – they think I am going to wear their skin as clothing and call myself a werewolf. See how these movies are badly affecting my children of the night. We need that, or I might have to turn my whole castle into a one big coffin.

Vampire Bat: There is less hope for both of them. The problem about having a Vampire Chronicles movie is that nothing can live up-to the awesomeness of Interview with the Vampire. The scope of a Dark Shadows sequel is less, due to the lack of need and the not that positive critical reception. One day, we will take over as official undead reviewers with bad teeth, and then we can change the whole thing.

Count Dracula: Then we shall stick with this Barnabas as the vampire hero of this century so far. The last century’s control was disputed, but for this one, it has become pretty clear, the only challenge being from Selene and the next closest was indeed Rayne, but they were rather the heroines who enchanted us. I shall pray for the rise of more vampire in movies and literature which are as good as Barnabas.

Vampire Bat: Yes, it is worth your time for sure, especially as you have not much to do, and all the souls are going to love it. Now, it is the time to go home and have that cup of tea, and therefore until we collide on a hunt again, good bye, Count.

Count Dracula: Good bye, best of my winged brethren; for now. May the shadows be with you, especially the dark shadows if you got what I meant.

Vampire Bat (to himself): I am fully in support of this movie mostly due to the great performance of Johnny Depp in his new avatar, and then due to the good work put into it by Eva Green with great support from the rest, especially Bella Heathcote, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter. Here, we have that true vampire comedy movie which adds almost every ingredient correctly, thus making this a great choice, and the reason why you need to go back in time and check the theatres.

✠ I don’t know about that television show or soap opera on which this movie is based, and that might not be necessary, but if you love vampire flicks and bloodsuckers in literature, you will like Dark Shadows which keep the worlds of Twilight and Mortal Instruments away. Even if you don’t care much about the same, the comic side of the movie will keep you interested. Still, there is so much seriousness underneath striving for true love, which makes this a wonderfully layered movie. I am pretty sure that whatever you like and wherever you are from, most of you will at least like this one as an average movie, and there are not many places where you can have this much vampire fun along with looking at such a great cast. Behold the beauty of the shadows of this movie, and you might end up loving it along with Bella Heathcote. This one won’t even make Count Dracula think twice, and in that case, long live Barnabas Collins, who has survived a witch’s love and watched his own dark shadows in a coffin for such a long time.

Release date: 11th May 2012
Running time: 113 minutes
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Bella Heathcote, Eva Green, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Geethanjali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Mama

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This one goes back a little to the past in this year itself, and this is one of those movies which could easily initiate such a sequence in the eternal time machine. This is rather more of the present than the past, as it doesn’t really go back that far if there is an intellectual consideration in depth. It was different in being different, and therefore its influence had to be such a lasting thing. There is one point where all the interest about this movie begins, and that is when one reads these lines from its cover – “Presented by Guillermo del Toro, creator of Pan’s Labyrinth“. He serves as executive producer, and as far as it is known, the movie is based on a 2008 short film of the same name in Spanish, about which there is nothing more to shoot in the quiver which is short of its crossbow bolts from that part of the world. The movie comes up with the dark tale of two little girls left in a seemingly abandoned cabin in the woods, taken care of by an unknown person or creature that they call Mama, and the same entity even follows the girls to their new home to which their father’s brother takes them after finding them as two feral children.

During a financial crisis, a disappointed and depressed man, Jeffrey Desange (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), kills his business partners and wife before taking his little children Victoria and Lilly away from home. Driving too fast on a road paved by snow and upset with all the thoughts about his failures and the crimes he had committed, the car slides off the path and crashes in the woods. Jeffrey takes the children and walks away from civilization, finally reaching something that seems to be an abandoned cabin. He plans to murder his daughters and commit suicide with a gun, but then a mysterious figure arrives in time to instantly kill him and it also feeds the two children. Victoria talks about the figure as a woman whose legs don’t touch the ground. Then the scene shifts to five years later, with Jeffrey’s brother, the kids’ uncle Lucas Desange (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), living with his girlfriend Annabel Moore (Jessica Chastain). They don’t live under good conditions, but Lucas haven’t lost hope about finding the children of his brother. He still sponsors search parties hoping to find some trace of his brother and children.

One of them find the children alive in the same cabin, but dirty, half-naked, horribly thin and with an animal-like behaviour – walking on four legs and talking like making some strange noises. The girls are put under the care of psychatirst Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash). They keeps talking about someone called “Mama”. He feels that it is just a creation of the girls’ minds as they were alone in the woods without help. But soon, Lucas is attacked by the same shadowy figure known as Mama and enters a comma. Annabel is forced to take care of the girls all by herself even as Mama’s visits continue. Annabel does get close to the elder child, Victoria, but Lilly remains hostile and highly attached only to Mama. Meanwhile, Gerald finds out something about this mysterious figure from the clues which Victoria gave away. Mama is a mother separated from her child – she used to be Edith Brennan, a mental asylum inmate in the 1800s. He also finds a box containing an infant’s remains from that former mental asylum which was kept as her belonging there. Meanwhile, Annabel has a nightmare revealing Mama’s past which reveals more about her. Lucas also has a disturbing dream of his dead brother Jeffrey telling him to save his kids.

But there might have been more about Mama that what met the eye. She is undoubtedly supernatural as well as tormented. The problem remained if she is normal and thus if she is reasonable. The psychatrist might have thought so, but the experience doesn’t go well for him. Even Lucas and his wife has to go through near-death experiences. So the question would be more about “why mama why?” rather than “who is mama?”. Well, mama is undoubtedly a former mother who no longer exists as a human mother. The nature of her strange love for her child is evident from her asylum background. The question might be about how much torment a mentally unstable ghost can cause to a group of normal, living people. That would be a lot of it, much more than what the mentally unstable father of two little children could do. How much is the chance of one making peace with her? It wasn’t possible when she was alive, and considering the fact that she is more motivated by the love for children rather than anything else, the solution becomes even more complicated in the human world.

Mama is a visual treat of a horror film, and not part of the gory ones which take over in the usual style. There is a well-created world of horror right in front of you all the time, and then suddenly there is a scene that takes your breath further away and then it goes back to normal to await the next thing. Welcome to this story of old-style less bloody horror movie of low gore level. There are signs of Guillermo del Toro’s magical extravaganza Pan’s Labyrinth or El laberinto del fauno, are evident in both the characters as well as the environment. There is the feeling of a dark fantasy through out and there is the lack of sunshine which is more motivating than the depressing thing which it might have become, which is a success in all ways. It’s just how horror films should be, without using any cheap or low class tricks. The looks of Mama is also a revelation, as she emerges from the walls or closet, sometimes suddenly and on other occasions as if part of all the horror that surrounds them. The use of moths to show Mama’s presence is a further effective thing, as it shows more of her tormented sould which is not completely evil, thus owl, crow or bat not chosen; neither is the wolf or cat given a chance at it. Mama is more of a butterfly rather than anything else, but a fierce one.

The movie’s dark world move along the path of Pan’s Labyrinth, but it is still not of that class of ultimate perfection and awesomeness, and still is close enough. It meets Hansel and Gretel in its witch-like creature who is less of a ghost and more of an undead freak of nature. There it shows the qualities of The Orphan meeting The Grudge and The Ring in a good way. Mama could have even made a good creature in Alien or The Exorcist, and the creature’s success is in its strange, but “suitable for almost every genre” looks. She is a dark fairy, the nature’s spectre, the tormented undead mother and the dark elf. She belongs to nature and as a creature to the living, she is more moth or a group of moths rather than anything else. They signify her presence, and if she takes the children with her, there will be more moths for sure. There is the positive thing – the innovation, for how the ghost is treated around here with a difference. The movie is fresh in its treatment of a new ghostly creature with heavy parental instincts. Such a creature is not onne would expect in such a movie, and until it appears everything might look more psychological than supernatural, even if the signs are already there from the beginning itself.

While Mama is a benevolent spirit when it comes to two children, but she is a malevolent and even a death-dealer with everyone else. She hasn’t yet become pure evil, even as her allignment away from goodness and sanity is clear by the climax scene. Even her unseen presence suggests the same. Her moths symbolize the little beauty that she has lost to death and decay and the beautiful world which was lost to her more due to the people around rather than her own madness. There are no usual suspects of the common supernatural, as there is only the variation which is Mama. The movie is very much dependent on your taste to survive, but the fact remains that it is more close to being suitable for all people with not that much blood and gore, or the display of any kind of nudity – well, this one never needed it considering its content and presentation. There is not much of a male gaze or a possible female gaze working out in this one. It is story of an undead mother’s love and with the addition of insanity to it, there is a lot to think about. There is no compromise in being spooky or creepy enough though.

Release date: 18th January 2013
Running time: 100 minutes
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.