Hoax

Vampire Owl: I heard that they are going to search for Bigfoot.

Vampire Bat: Everybody knows that it doesn’t exist. Are they dumb?

Vampire Owl: Well, they think that even us don’t exist.

Vampire Bat: It is another reason why they are to be considered dumb.

Vampire Owl: We shouldn’t be searching for reasons why humans are dumb.

Vampire Bat: Well, a Bigfoot movie seems rather outdated, and not applicable to all areas of the world outside North America and Europe.

Vampire Owl: Well, they should have been running short of monsters.

Vampire Bat: Still, there are many other things you can search for, in a forest.

Vampire Owl: Yes, even serial killers can found out in the wilderness.

Vampire Bat: Let us see if they find this type of monster in the end.

[Gets a pineapple cake and three cups of masala tea].

What is the movie about? :: A group of young campers who goes to a remote area in the wilderness to enjoy some time alone, away from the city – they go missing, and they are supposed to be killed with some bodies found, and nobody is able to figure out exactly what actually happened at the site. It is then that an investigative team decides to travel all the way there and find out if this was a case of Bigfoot attacking them. These creatures which are also known as Sasquatch had a significant role in the North American folklore. These creatures are supposed to be like apes, and they leave giant footprints. They are supposed to be linked to some of the great apes, and are often considered to exist from a long time ago. There are people who have claimed to have seen the creatures, and some are supposed to have seen the marks of big feet on the ground. As this particualr incident is also related to some unknown, unidentified creatures, it becomes something that can have great news value.

So, what happens with the events here? :: Even though the existence of Bigfoot is dismissed by scientists as a hoax based on some strange old beliefs, the first person to join Rick Paxton’s (Ben Browder) team of Bigfoot hunters is a young doctor, researcher and primate specialist, Dr Ellen Freese (Cheryl Texiera) who gets attached to the dollars Rick had offered to shower on her. Cooper Barnes (Max Decker), father of one of the missing girls is also asked to join the team, because he needed someone who knew the mountains and wilderness – Cooper has been leading many search parties in the area hoping that he could find his daughter. Peter Moore (Schuyler Denham), a renowned cryptologist, also joins the team, and so does Justin Johnson (Hutch Dano), their camera man. John Singer (Brian Thompson) is appointed as the security personnel in charge of their safety. Danny Kent (Brian Landis Folkins) would be assisting, and Bridgette Powers (Shoshana Bush) is supposed to be reporting from the location. But things would be different than they think about it, and will they be able to survive it?

The defence of Hoax :: It is to be noted that Hoax does provide some welcome surprises, and it also has a nice twist in the end, and that is certainly a violent one. Well, there are not many movies which has Bigfoot with the scares, and there are not much that we know about, that is for sure – Bigfoot does need its movies too, for almost all the other creatures, from vampires and zombies to werewolves got them. You know how far they have managed to get in big money-making series like Resident Evil, Underworld and Twilight, even though we can only wonder about how the last one mentioned here made so much of money and fans. The setting of Hoax is really good, and the cast have managed to work through the wilderness really well, whether it is in the morning or at night – it is one beautiful, charming and scary setting, all at the same time. The special effects are avoided to give a realistic touch here, which we never fails to notice. The terrifying events actually come in the end of the movie, and one has the slasher effect in the beginning and the end, stronger than ever.

The claws of flaw :: Bigfoot is not really something which interests people around here, at this part of the world, and it is not even an interesting monster for those who are looking for some serious horror – the name itself provides that funny feeling which works against a movie which is attempted to be a horror thriller in the wilderness, at a location where people went missing or were killed. The creature is also not much seen around here, and therefore, what could have been the movie’s highest points go missing. It also struggles to make the best use of its characters, and the stylish reporter girl character suffers the most. Even they had the setting to do a lot, there is much less being done here. With the title being confusing with another movie which deals with an entirely different subject, this film tries to bring its Bigfoot monster, and it does that without much of a focus. Due to the same, they missed a change to elevate the tales on these creatures to a higher level.

Performers of the soul :: Cheryl Texiera plays the doctor in the team, even though her interest is more in treating the animals. She does a fine job, but it has to be said that her looks suit more of an explorer and adventure on the lines of Lara Croft Tomb Raider. The same can be said about her clothing too, which suits her so well. Brian Thompson is solid around here, with a certain Arnold style of action-love written all over him. Ben Browder’s character progresses as someone like that would do, and he moves through that lane without any problem. Max Decker’s character seems to be the mandatory father character, because he achieves nothing much there, and the mystery itself comes to that kind of a conclusion. We never really get to see more of Ryan Lucy as his lovely daughter lost in the woods. Shoshana Bush does bring some humour around here, but she is rather underused considering such a character’s potential. After a few minutes, she is completely wasted.

How it finishes :: There has been many forest-based slashers, and some of them have gone on to become legendary, including The Cabin in the Woods, one of the best horror movies of all-time with a pinch of satire, as well as the best known horror movie of all-time and its remake, Evil Dead. The lesser known movies like The Forest, and the divergent ones like The Witch also makes use of the wilderness nicely – we are always expecting Wrong Turn and The Hills Have Eyes franchises to explore the same better. Hoax doesn’t use the setting to its best of strengths, and maybe, if they manage to hunt Bigfoot next time, can correct the mistakes. As of now, Hoax makes a pretty good entertainer as a thriller, and there are elements of horror, along with the blood and gore – it is as if the movie is not one movie throughout its run, but has some breaks in between. You can choose to watch it as another usual movie which goes through the safe path throughout its run.

Release date: 20th August 2019
Running time: 111 minutes
Directed by: Matt Allen
Starring: Cheryl Texiera, Shoshana Bush, Brian Thompson, Ben Browder, Hutch Dano, Ryan Lucy, Matt Riedy, Adrienne Barbeau, Sabrina Stull, Maire Higgins

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✠ The Vampire Bat.

Athiran

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1967, and a worried Lakshmi (Shanthi Krishna) finds their family murdered while Nithya (Sai Pallavi) is seen playing with a thread. The situation seems to points to her as dangerously abnormal and a murderer. Five years later in 1972, Dr. MK Nair (Fahadh Faasil), a psychiatrist from Trivandrum Medical College is sent to check out the activities in a mental asylum situated far away from civilization, between the trees in the wilderness. This grand mansion which was built by the British has limited access to other places. Dr Benjamin Diaz (Atul Kulkarni) who served in the 1972 India-China War and a master hypnotist is the resident doctor as well as the owner of the asylum. He is very strict in his methods and doesn’t like anyone from outside making a visit. Renuka (Lena) is in control of things there, and Avarachan (Nandhu) provides further help from outside.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: There are strange incidents happening in the asylum. The inmates include Anna Maria (Leona Lishoy), a religious person, P Subrahmanya Iyer (Vijay Menon), an English professor, Vadakkedath Kamala Lakshmi (Surabhi Lakshmi), a person of too much concern for everyone around her, Jeevan Thomas (Sudev Nair), and a happy and strange romantic person. But it turns out that there is one more patient, and she is hidden and locked away in a cell, considered to be extremely dangerous and uncontrollable – the person is none other than Nithya who lives a restrained life, hostile to those who very rarely come to visit her. The newly arrived doctor realizes that there is something strange about her as well as the working of the hospital – he even has some dream visions and hallucinations when he is there, but some of them might be close to reality.

The defence of Athiran :: We have had a good number of psychological thriller, but after the 1990s, not many movies could rise above a certain level, and Athiran comes as a breath of fresh air – we always needed our own Shutter Island, and this one becomes the same, but with its own different twists. A Cure for Wellness is another movie we are reminded of. There is a similar beautiful setting here just like that island in Shutter Island and the mountain ranges in A Cure for Wellness, as the camera nicely brings all of the same to perfection. There is a Gothic building out there, and has a similar setting as one would have seen in movies like Crimson Peak, even though in the absence of the ghostly presence, is not used to the maximum – we had already seen 9 using a similar setting. The songs and the picturization also prove to be really attractive, and the suspense is maintained until the end as we remain thrilled.

The claws of flaw :: The similarities to A Cure for Wellness and Shutter Island can’t be ignored. There is another movie called The Ward which deals with a similar situation. All these are set in places dealing with “wellness” of the patients, and has similar moments of horror related to treatment procedure, along with secrets there that should be revealed. There is clear influence in bringing a certain Hollywood style, also resembling the Victorian Gothic Model, but the success of the movie is that it has done the same really well, and local elements have been mixed with some skill behind the same. We still have the feeling that something missing in there, and the other patients’ characters could have been better developed. With a setting like this, there was hope for bringing some intensely terrifying moments, but it is not there. Nights in a mental asylum far away from civilization can always bring more, and so can a mentally unstable murderer of family members.

The performers of the soul :: Fahadh Faasil is one actor who has come up with minimum guarantee in the last few months, and we look at his previous movie to make sure about that. His last three ventures in Malayalam movie industry were Kumbalangi Nights, Njan Prakashan and Varathan, all three gaining both critical and commercial success. These movies also had less hype in comparison to the others, and Athiran actually came up with no real boost in marketing – I came to know about this movie very late, and even then I didn’t know that this was a Malayalam movie; the film survived with people’s opinions. It is to be noted that there is a certain change that comes across the character he plays in each of the four movies including this one. One can also note that Fahadh has done a fantastic job here as the main character in a psychological thriller – playing a character in a mental asylum wouldn’t come easy, whether the role is of a mental patient or not.

Further performers of the soul :: Sai Pallavi has returned to Malayalam movie industry once again, and it called for a change, a welcome one, as there is no dance performance around here. She is the kind of actress who can do this role so well, as she showed such signs in Kali itself, even though it was not needed then. Well, here she excels in portraying the character with autism and more. This one is her best performance in the industry so far, clearly better than Premam, and surely better than that which didn’t really matter in the miserable Kali. Atul Kulkarni who has come up with some memorable performances in Malayalam movies before, brings a strong antagonist. Leona Lishoy, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon and Sudev Nair who have their moments as the patients never really get going though, with no real mention about their tales of the past. Lena and Nandhu gets limited in their roles, Shanthi Krishna is there for a few minutes. Renji Panicker is impressive when he is there.

How it finishes :: Athiran is one movie which has been running for so long despite releasing without making much of a noise. One month later, it can be seen that the movie is still going strong, despite Avengers: Endgame taking the most number of viewers, creating the collection record like never before, overtaking Titanic and closing in on Avatar, the effect being seen here too. Athiran, one month later, is challenging the bigger movies like the crowd puller Oru Yamandan Prema Katha and the critics favourite Uyare. It is nice to see a psychological thriller doing such a job, as it has been the genre, with a fee exceptions not bringing the major part of audience to the theatres, especially the family audience. But things have changed now, and Athiran has stood tall when the opportunity came, and it does so in Hollywood style, in a grand environment.

Release date: 12th April 2019
Running time: 136 minutes
Directed by: Vivek
Starring: Fahadh Faasil, Sai Pallavi, Lena, Sudev Nair, Leon Lishoy, Prakash Raj, Renji Panicker, Atul Kulkarni, Shanthi Krishna, Nandhu, Surabhi Lakshmi, Vijay Menon

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.