Scary Stories

Vampire Owl: So, we have Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Vampire Bat: Did you notice that it is the name of one movie with a very long title?

Vampire Owl: Yes, do you think that there will be stories which are that long?

Vampire Bat: It doesn’t seem to be about separate movies, not something like an anthology.

Vampire Owl: But the impression given is that of an anthology.

Vampire Bat: Yes, but this seems to be a story in which there are stories written about real horror which happens.

Vampire Owl: Horror has always been real. It is the only original genre in the world. The rest are not that close to reality.

Vampire Bat: Yes, who can expect thrillers and romance in life?

Vampire Owl: But horror happens to everyone, and is very much real.

Vampire Bat: Yes, if it is not present, we can always volunteer to provide them.

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

What is the movie about? :: It is the later 1960s, and three teenaged friends, Stella Nicholls (Zoe Colletti), August “Auggie” Hilderbrandt (Gabriel Rush), and Charlie “Chuck” Steinberg (Austin Zajur), prank play a Halloween prank on the bully Tommy Milner (Austin Abrams) who had been bothering them for a long time. Tommy is not someone who would take this lightly, as he and his gang chase them with baseball bats, they run to a drive-in movie theater, where a young drifter Ramon Morales (Michael Garza) hides them in his car. As he makes sure that Tommy doesn’t get them, he promises to have revenge on all of them sooner or later. Ramon becomes good friends with the kids, especially Stella with whom he has an instant connection, with a special interest in horror stories, and also connecting to her troubled past when her mother left her.

So, what happens with the events here? :: They decide to visit a haunted house for Halloween, where a girl named Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) had committed suicide. After a kid had gone missing, the place was locked down by the local authorities, but the group manages to get in, only to be locked in by Tommy along with his own girlfriend who is Charlie’s sister, Ruth Steinberg (Natalie Ganzhorn). Stella finds a book which seems to be writen by Sarah who was mostly a recluse, and considered by people to be mentally unwell. She decides to take it home, but on that night, she finds out that the book starts writing all by itself, and it is done using blood. Soon, they understand that Tommy has gone missing, and by finding his t-shirt on a scarecrow, she realizes that he had become the new scarecrow after being attacked by the former scarecrow according to the book. Now, before it starts writing again, she has to stop it with her friends. Can she do that in time?

The defence of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark :: The movie is well-structured, and each death here becomes a special tale of supernatural murder when we look at them, connected by one which gets written by a supernatural entity which has terrible past behind it, that needs to be revealed. The idea is a really good one, and we are immersed in it, even without it trying to do the extraordinary. Everything here is kept pretty much simple, and you can always have time to admire some simple horror. The monsters are nice, beginning with the scarecrow coming alive, and going on to add more which relates to the worst fears of the victims. The Halloween setting is a fine beginning to the tale, and it continues to score well through the haunting in the middle, reaching to the end which is pretty well done, and leading to the option of a sequel being kept open. In the end, you have more than one story in your mind.

The claws of flaw :: There is not much unique being added here though, as this does remind us of other tales, and the predictability does come in, at times. There is not much of a character development around here, and the beginning moments are kind of drag, which could have been shortened to give this movie a better pace at the start. Even though the movie is based on Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a series of three collections of short horror stories meant for children, this could have had some special additions because this is the movie version, and visuals mean a lot of horror. The book is supposed to have drawn heavily from folklore and urban legends, and so anything more can fit in here and there. Then there is the Academy award winner Guillermo del Toro’s name flashed as a producer, and your expectations are even higher, keeping this movie’s level below that. Well, I still want a sequel to his Crimson Peak as soon as possible, just like Dredd always needed.

Performers of the soul :: Zoe Colletti plays the protagonist, and leads the way in a horror movie amazingly well, leaving us hope for a scream queen many years later. From the beginning with silly Halloween pranks, she is someone who leads the way through the murders, and does that without doubts. Michael Garza who plays the next important character also does well, from the very moment he gets to meet the other characters. The other kids who are being hunted by the ghost with a past includes Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Zajur, Gabriel Rush and Austin Abrams, and they all provided good support. Gil Bellows who plays the police officer also has his moments. But as usual, the ones who scores the best are the monsters, and even the book is a fine character enough. When you make good monsters, you inspire better work from the cast, unless you have The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Nun group, which works anyway.

How it finishes :: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark shows that simple scary stories do come alive, and when it does, there is great scope for horror. There is no usual anthology here when you hear that it is about stories. There are no different tales coming together from different directors this time, like they have been doing for a long time. It does take an amount of such terror, and use it pretty well, with a cast which is not much known, and it works well enough with some interesting moments of monsters to go with it, as well as a past which is worthy enough for a good haunting. The idea to bring these tales and monsters are also nice, as it becomes not a usual horror story with spirits haunting us. It makes a fine thing for Halloween, and maybe you can watch it during the witching hours, with one monster after the other, as you even feel the need to write a horror story by the end of this movie.

Release date: 9th August 2019
Running time: 108 minutes
Directed by: Andre Ovredal
Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Aladdin

What is the movie about? :: Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a young man living in the streets of Agrabah with his pet monkey, with no parents and no idea about family. He is considered as a petty thief living in the streets, stealing one thing or the other to keep going, and his monkey is not far behind in the same skill. In the streets, he meet Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who has dressed up as a commoner and is wandering in the streets. After giving some bread to a few starving children without paying for the same, they are chased by the soldiers, and she leaves him with the idea that he is just a thief, as he fails to return her bracelet which his monkey had taken. But Aladdin decides to get it back to the lady whom he misunderstands as the princess’ handmaiden Dalia (Nasim Pedrad). At a time when she is bothered by suitors from different nations like Prince Anders (Billy Magnussen), Aladdin sneaks into the palace.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: His skills are noticed by the Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the chief advisor to The Sultan (Navid Negahban). Even though he is the second most powerful person in the kingdom, he wants more, and for the same, he needs a magic lamp hidden within the Cave of Wonders. It is a near impossible task, and as Aladdin enters the palace unnoticed, he decides to use the skills of the young man to get the lamp from the cave which has been unkind to those who tried to take the lamp earlier. In return for the same, he offers the youth from the street infinite riches and even the attention of the princess. But as Aladdin gets into the cave, he realizes that it is no ordinary cave, and the lamp is not the usual one – it has the Genie (Will Smith) who is ready with three wishes. But will that be enough to marry the beautiful princess?

And what more is to happen? :: Genie hopes that the last wish of Aladdin would be about setting him free. Jafar hopes that he could get his hands on the magic lamp at some point. Jasmine hopes that it is not just her curves that is loved by her suitors, but also her ideas, with a desire to become the ruler of her kingdom one day. Aladdin would go back to the palace by the name Prince Ali, and hope to gain the attention of the princess and win her hand. But it turns out that Jasmine is not at all interested in the newly arrived prince despite him displaying all the wealth that Genie had brought. Despite Jasmine’s lack of interest, there would be Jaffar’s interest, as his evil plans continue. With his desire to become the most powerful man in the kingdom as well as the known world, what could stop him? Will there be a better fate in store for the kingdom?

The defence of Aladdin :: The memories of childhood comes back with Aladdin, as we remember those days of watching a lot of cartoon and that music which goes by the lines, Arabian Nights. Nostalgia surely becomes a grand factor here, and not just Princess Jasmine, but also her handmaiden remains adorable. Even though there is nothing spectacular about the fight scenes, the visual beauty can be seen there as well as with the city itself. The whole place is nicely built, and the magical elements add to the visuals well. There are some nice fun sequences around here, and Will Smith plays the big part in the same. These keep the fun element going. Coming from the man who brought Sherlock Holmes and its sequel, along with The Man from UNCLE, one could surely guess a few things about this one, and raise the level of expectations.

The claws of flaw :: The problem here is that there is the feeling of not being able to make this one better than what we had seen in the past, even though the ideas as well as technology did improve a lot. A visual extravaganza in the desert could have meant more. The Arabian Nights song version here is not that interesting as the original one, and often the Genie fails to rise as the character and becomes more of the actor that plays the same – Will Smith. At the expense of making the main female character stronger, the viewers are presented with a weaker villain who never really seems like he could come up with something terrifying. The changes from the original version are not really improvements, but strange diversions that take the essence away from what we know about Aladdin – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time could actually do this better, whichever way we look at the same.

The performers of the soul :: The top performer of this movie is Naomi Scott, and she goes through the whole movie with charm, scoring heavily in the final moments. One can see that she plays her character to such perfection at some moments that we feel that she could do well with a sequel, further away from the original Aladdin story. She is lovely to watch on the screen from the beginning, to the end. Mena Massoud’s titular character is memorable, and has his own moments. Will Smith brings the funny side very well, even though deviated from our idea of a genie – some are surely overdone, but he holds on really well. Marwan Kenzari as Jafar brings a weaker villain, and one has to wonder if that was intentional. Nasim Pedrad as Dalia is a fine addition of a character. The animal characters are nicely worked on too.

How it finishes :: Aladdin makes an interesting watch with family, especially with kids. It keeps going the light-hearted way, and there is no real menace to be seen, as we go through this safe trip. The movie could have actually began with its action rather than using the story within the story setting – it ruins the chance to bring a certain twist. Well, Aladdin could have been lesser like Robin Hood last year, and there were so many chances of it to miss out, but it does hold on and brings Aladdin well enough to touch our nostalgia. With Avengers: Endgame and John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum continuing to stay, this one can also accompany them, as Hollywood movies have been scoring bigger these days. Also, lets wonder what more could have been added to this particular movie.

Release date: 24th May 2019
Running time: 128 minutes
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Mena Massoud, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Street Lights

What is the movie about? :: There is a burglary occuring in the city, and the two thieves are being chased by security guards, only to be saved by a third man who is part of the gang. The three men are revealed to be the confused Sachi (Hareesh Perummana), clueless Raju (Dharmajan Bolgatty) and the angry, violent Murugan (Stunt Silva) who is determined to get what he wants in any way possible. They have stolen a diamond necklace, which might be the key to making their life better, and maybe perfect enough to ensure an eternity of wonderful existence. Simon Mundackal (Joy Mathew) who is the owner of the diamond necklace, is afraid to go to the police as the necklace is made from unaccounted money, which makes him call his nephew who is a police officer, James (Mammootty) – a man known to have his special skills in solving difficult cases.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: James has no problem in taking over this case, as he is known to have a history with Murugan, a criminal from Tamil Nadu’s Theni who has escaped to Kerala. He keeps only his most trusted people from the force with him, keeping the investigation personal and far away from the force’s knowledge. This search for the five crore worth of necklace begins with the one mobile phone which the thieves left at the house, but the journey forward is not that smooth for them, with James’ trusted officer Issac (Rony David) getting injured while fighting Murugan. The three thieves got their own safe houses in and around Cochin, and even when they are not to be found in the city, they have their presence. But they do make one mistake while hiding the diamond necklace, and Raju has the credit for the same.

And what follows next in the adventure? :: Their complicated adventure collides with the normal life of the people of Vypin and other places close to the city, and things begin to undergo changes for all of them. Remya (Lijomol Jose), her cousin and childhood friend (Soubin Shahir) who is in love with her, a child in her neighbourhood, his father who is connected to the thieves, and others are forced into the world of policemen and thieves, which has only one diamond necklace as the means to solve everything. There is also a flashback or many of them related to how everything begins. But the question remains if Murugan and his friends can be caught, and whether the diamond necklace can ever get back to Simon who is waiting for the same – well, you will never know, as there are some twists ready to happen.

The defence of Street Lights :: There is certain suspense about how things are going to come together, and things get nicely uncovered, and we have them joining well enough to make a point as we march towards the end. There is also a balance regarding importance given to the characters, as a number of roles seems to have the same significance in how things keep happening. The characters are more or less like the street lights, making their presence felt by lighting up moments – some are surely brighter than the rest, but all are working unlike in some parts of our world. Even those characters who come only in one scene have enough in them to be memorable. There is the mixture of comedy, thrills and twists that go on well, even though none of them gets to a level which makes the whole thing truly remarkable. The comic side brings the balance, you have almost all genres except horror looking right into this movie which is kept short for our interests.

The claws of flaw :: The final moments of the movie seem to be forced. One has to wonder why there had to be the need to bring the hero and the villain face to face, to get the protagonist to beat up his opponent with ease, when everything has been going in a rather realistic manner. The heroism with sunshades, slow motion and the stylish vehicles just seem to be added for the sake of having them there. A tale of the common man gets lost in this need to go unreal at times. A few predictable moments could have been avoided, and the focus should have been more with the child and the romantic tale, with the police-criminal moments being restricted. The final moments showing the greatness of the protagonist is rather dull, and a near perfect police officer is mis-fit for this kind of a realistic tale of the common people we see around.

The performers of the soul :: Mammootty plays the hero in this tale of other people, and he has no problem in playing this character which brings no challenge – it is just the usual stereotype of a police officer surrounded by characters full of life. Here, he brings the needed the charm, and surely strengthens the movie as the star. Lijomol Jose and Soubin Shahir have their own moments in this one, and there is fun around when they are around, with a certain amount of cuteness to go with the same. Hareesh Perumanna and Dharmajan Bolgatty are the two to provide the best of comedy though, as they bring something or the other all the time without hesitation. Stunt Silva does make a perfect villain in between, and we can see the evil side coming out of the veil, as we see the villainy which gets darker, revealing the strength of that darkness. Adhish Praveen is wonderful throughout the movie, and Gayathri Krishna’s shorter presence has our attention.

How it finishes :: Street Lights is not what many people might have expected, but its core tale of common people that we have been in need. If the so called action side was removed, it could have been a thriller with Maheshinte Prathikaaram or Thondimuthalum Drikshakshiyum model comic side. It never really matches them in totality, but Street Lights does manage to bring its own identity around here. Among the movies which go on doing the same thing again and again, this one does try to go a different path, particularly with one side of its story, and we can appreciate the same. It is with the same thing that Street Lights differs from Masterpiece – there is an idea here which is divergent in its core, and there is the attempt to experiment at certain points. Well, we can safely say that the street lights bring enough to get rid of the darkness here.

Release date: 26th January 2018
Running time: 129 minutes
Directed by: Shamdat Sainudeen
Starring: Mammootty, Gayathri Krishna, Lijomol Jose, Soubin Shahir, Joy Mathew, Hareesh Perumanna, Stunt Silva, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Rony David, Jude Anthany Joseph, Sudhi Koppa, Motta Rajendran, Neena Kurup, Adhish Praveen, Sohan Seenulal, Rajasekharan

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.