Lift Movie Review: A mostly engaging scarefest doubling up as a decent Kavin star vehicle
For a film that mainly sticks to the horror side of things, there are brief detours Lift takes into comedy
There is something interesting that filmmaker-writer Vineeth Varaprasad does with Lift. For a film that mainly sticks to the horror side of things, there are brief detours it takes into comedy. These are not scenes that are force-fitted to wring out a laugh from audiences now attuned to watching template horror-comedies one after the other. Take, for instance, the scene where Guru (Kavin), who has already come to terms with a supernatural presence playing kabaddi in his life, waits for Harini (Amritha) to understand it. He doesn’t shout his lungs out about the ghost. He doesn’t shake her up to drill some sense into her. He just stands in a spot with an eerie sense of calmness. And then… There is the light bulb moment for Harini, and her astounded look is complemented by Guru’s “epdi sikkirikom paathiya” look. I smiled. Such light moments are placed at the right time to ensure they are neither distractions nor afterthoughts. It is impressively organic, and the absence of this seamless transition in the final act is what pegs the film down by a couple of notches.
Cast: Kavin, Amritha, Balaji Venugopal, Kiran Konda
Director: Vineeth Varaprasad
Guru is a Bengaluru-based IT employee, who is transferred to the Chennai branch of his company. Harini is also a recent addition to the HR department of the same company. There is a simple flashback, and a couple of meet-cutes later, we find Harini expressing to Guru that she has a crush on him. Refreshing. But the response… not so much. However, thankfully, Vineeth wastes no time in getting to the central plot point — ghosts in a building lift. Considering how I’m not really a fan of the genre (Read ‘Horror padam na Bayam’ in Vettaikaran Vedhanayagam voice), the way they have shot the supernatural scenes within the confines of the lift was relaxing. Their choice to let go of the claustrophobic nature of the setting to provide a macroscopic view of what is happening might be polarising, for sure, but I didn’t mind it.
The gags aren’t the most inventive, but Kavin and Amritha are earnest enough to sell it. The idea that the ghosts of Lift are tech-savvy was interesting. I almost let out a gasp in a scene involving the game of hide-and-seek and a xerox machine. It was interesting how, in addition to the usual jump scares, there is also a refreshing method of Instagram/Snapchat filters to ascertain the presence of the paranormal. Also, it is a wonder how the idea of setting a horror film in a sprawling IT company hadn’t been explored in Tamil cinema yet. The cubicles, the rolling chairs, the unending pile of papers, the huge glass panes, and of course… the emptiness of it all make it perfect for a horror film, and also give a Nakamura Towers feel. Make a Die Hard-esque film in an IT complex… ASAP!
With most of the scares almost working, most of the humour almost landing, the performances keeping us mostly invested, and the music (Britto Michael) and cinematography (S Yuva) elevating the film to refreshingly higher ground, there was only one thing left for Vineeth and Co to do. Just one thing. Resolve everything without a glitch, and give a decent third act. But wow, do they unravel themselves! Most horror films, irrespective of what other genre is mixed in them, end with the “why” of the ghost. What made them vengeful? What made them die untimely deaths? Answers to such questions determine the efficacy of the film. On that front, Lift disappoints. Why should a film like Lift even have a message? It was doing just well without one for 2/3rds of its runtime anyway. The reveal, although a tad disturbing, is too rushed to elicit even the faintest of empathy. When the credits roll and we sit back to retrospect on what just happened, we realise how the entire haunting of the IT building was just a gimmick. The ghosts were just bored because avenging their deaths doesn’t really have anything to do with Guru and Harini. Even without them, the ghosts would have happily done what they wanted to do. Nevertheless, they had fun while it lasted, and, in some ways, I did too.
There is no doubt that Lift might remind us of something similar we saw almost nine years ago. A guy caught in a horror situation trying his best to wriggle his way out. That film was Pizza and it made Vijay Sethupathi a household name. Thanks to his stint in television serials and reality shows, Kavin is already a household name, and he now needed a film to make the film industry take him seriously. Considering how it was with Pizza that he made his first “uncredited” appearance on the big screen, Kavin’s journey to the start of a cinema career has come full circle with Lift. He is the star attraction. Where he goes from here is something that will be fascinating to keep track of. He has both illustrious predecessors and unfortunate also-rans ahead of him. Despite the comparisons, Lift is no Pizza… and while it might not zoom up Kavin, Amritha, and the rest of the people involved in the film to the highest level, it definitely will (Sorry… I have to get it out of my system) uplift them a couple of steps.