Chathurmukham Movie Review: Fresh ideas power this impressive horror-thriller
Directed by Ranjeet Kamala Sankar and Salil V, and scripted by K. Abhayakumar and Anil Kurian, Chathurmukham scores because of the novelty of its ideas and the cautious and skilful execution
Of late, we haven't seen much ingenuity in Malayalam cinema in the horror genre. The few films that do show up occasionally have not been entirely successful in satiating the appetite of horror movie buffs. I'm happy to report that Manju Warrier's latest, Chathurmukham, pulls off this task with aplomb.
Directors: Ranjeet Kamala Sankar, Salil V
Cast: Manju Warrier, Sunny Wayne, Alencier Ley
Directed by Ranjeet Kamala Sankar and Salil V (who wrote the immensely entertaining heist drama Kohinoor) and scripted by K Abhayakumar and Anil Kurian, Chathurmukham scores because of the novelty of its ideas, which are anchored by cautious and skilful execution. It's a film brimming with a lot of interesting and surprising ideas.
Chathurmukham opens with a murder caused by an unseen force. A smartphone lying next to the corpse empties its battery by itself. The film then moves on to the task of presenting its protagonist, Thejaswini (Manju Warrier), a selfie-obsessed woman who lives as though she was born with the gadget. But this annoying habit aside, she has a winning and enterprising personality.
Thankfully, the makers don't convert her male friend and colleague, Antony (Sunny Wayne), into her lover or a saviour figure. It's a relationship that doesn't fall prey to the typical, done-to-death cliches. And Antony has a sense of humour that comes as a relief in some of the film's most nail-biting moments. I'm not sure if the makers intended this character to behave in a certain way in these areas, but it works, regardless of the original intention. We soon find Thejaswini in danger, and Antony turns to Clement (Alencier Ley), a man of science, for help.
Being a staunch believer in the power of science, Clement isn't one to immediately buy the idea of a supernatural force occupying a smartphone or any other object for that matter. Chathurmukham uses characters with opposing viewpoints on 'science versus superstition' to mine some intellectually stimulating conversations on the subject. We don't get any shamans or exorcists here. At one point, an encounter with a 'consultant' produces results both frightening and funny.
The attempt here is to eliminate the evil phenomenon through scientific means, and Clement comes up with a solution. But before that happens, we spend some time appreciating the gripping developments that precede it. By now, two murders have already happened, with more on the way. How do you deal with something that can manipulate any object around you?
I loved how the film, primarily billed as a techno-horror thriller, manages to effectively combine elements of other sub-genres too, namely body horror and found footage. At times these are blended with allegory and other times with facts.
It helps that Chathurukham has an adventurous cinematographer like Abhinandan Ramanujam. In many places, it feels as though he wanted to heighten the tension by shooting the film from the perspective of this relentlessly taunting presence. The disorienting camera angles, ingenious special effects, and a possible nod to the climax of Silence of the Lambs all ensure that Chathurmukham is an immersive audio-visual best witnessed on the big screen.