I know India has a somewhat thriving horror business now, and horror films are definitely not my genre (I have seen three), but it’s Halloween week, so it seemed appropriate.
Haunted House Dysfunctional Family Movie Malayalam with Tovino and Mohanlal
Think like American Horror Story Season 1 or something, the family is already messed up and the ghosts just mess with them more before ultimately uniting them (I love a happy ending). Mohanlal is the head of a family, Tovino Thomas is the son, Namitha Pramod is the daughter, Lena is the mother. Mohanlal is cheerful and joking but also definitely the head of the household. He catches Tovino smoking marijuana with friends, and Namitha kissing her boyfriend, and declares he is taking early retirement and moving them back to the family home. Lena protests slightly, but is overruled.
In the countryside, Tovino wanders with nothing to do (Mohanlal pulled him from college saying it was all bad influences) and Namitha secretly calls and texts her boyfriend. Tovino befriends some local boys who all dream of the city and drinks and smokes with them sometimes until Mohanlal forbids him from leaving the house and starts locking him at night. Namitha gets into similar trouble when he discovers that Tovino’s friends were helping her Skype with her boyfriend. Even Lena eventually runs afoul of him when he finds out she has been secretly borrowing the neighbors kitchen equipment instead of using the ancestral stove and so on.
At the same time, mysterious things start happening around the house, fires start, doors swing shut and won’t open, and so on and so forth. Tovino and Namitha notice it first and try to investigate, Namitha starts seeing a mysterious figure in her bedroom who scares her, Tovino tries to sleep in her room to protect her but Mohanlal won’t let him. They investigate and learn that their great great grandfather, years earlier when the first railroad came to town, decided that modernity was ruining the family and killed everyone in the family, only his youngest daughter escaped, she ran to her mother’s family house and was married shortly after to her cousin, her oldest son was Mohanlal’s grandfather.
They realize the ghost of the grandfather is haunting the house, as are his victims, the victims are trying to help them and the grandfather is trying to kill them. The only one who seems safe is Mohanlal. Lena is attacked by her kitchen equipment and barely escapes, Namitha has increasingly terrifying dreams that drive her near to insanity, Tovino tries to fight back and finds himself joining with the spirit of his great great uncle, the youngest son of the house who was found dead at the backdoor having protected his sister’s escape. They ghosts are defeated when they learn the terrible secret, that their great great grandfather was sleeping with his own daughter, and was the father of her oldest son. He had gone insane and thought the only way to keep the family “pure” was if he himself fathered his grandchildren. It was the confrontation over this secret that lead to the massacre.
However, twist! They defeat the ghost and save the household, but just as they are about to leave the house to go to the village clinic and get their wounds tended to, Mohanlal bars the door. And they realize it is not that the ghost infected Mohanlal, but the other way around. Mohanlal arrived at the house already obsessed with dominating and controlling his family, it was his behavior that woke the ghost, and the ghost being gone doesn’t mean he has changed. In fact, defeating the ghost made him only more sure of his own strength. He starts moving towards Namitha ranting wildly about how she is dirty and unclean and so on. Tovino moves in front of her to protect her and it looks like history will repeat itself, Tovino dying to save his sister. When suddenly Mohanlal collapses, and there is Lena behind him, she killed him with her electric carving knife (one of the forbidden modern implements she snuck into the kitchen).
(Family Savior is so close to Family Annihilator, it makes me nervous)
A year later, they have turned the home into a hostel for backpackers, Lena is happily cooking for them all and meeting new people and learning about the world, Namitha and her boyfriend are still dating long distance, and Tovino has come into his own as the charming host/organizer. And every night they leave out food for the friendly ghosts who still haunt the place, the victims of their ancestors massacre.
Vampire Comedy Movie with SRK and Juhi and Rajkummar
Shahrukh is a Vampire, and also a legendary poet. Every few decades he “kills” himself and then starts over as a new unknown poet who was heavily influenced by the last incarnation and slowly builds up a new following. His wife Juhi is proud of him and invited the scholar Rajkummar who loves his work and wants to write a book on him. Shahrukh is flustered and furious because how can they hide that they are Vampires? Juhi is breezy about it, sure it will all work out.
At first it seems like it might actually work, there are a few hiccups, but they manage to get through them, talk about a vow to his dead father not to have mirrors in the house or allow his photo to be taken, talk about how he is at his most creative at night and that is why he sleeps so late during the day, and so on. Juhi tries to cook for Rajkummar, and is terrible at it because she can’t remember what food tasted like, but he is polite and ignores it. And Rajkummar starts to really enjoy them, he is an orphan and books were always his best friends, he likes spending time being fussed over by this nice older couple.
(Movie stars or ageless vampires? You be the judge!)
But then the first complication happens! Rajkummar makes a friend, Deepika, who runs a little coffee house/bakery/bookstore in town for the tourist trekkers who come through. He tells her he is staying at a place nearby and eventually when Juhi figures out he has a crush on someone and nags him to introduce them, he brings her back to the house in his jeep. She starts acting weird as they get closer, and they arrive only for Juhi and Shahrukh to do a bit of a double take and for it to come out that Dips is their daughter. She rebelled and left the family home to start her cafe in town, they haven’t talked to her in years.
Big family fight in which the audience learns that Dips was sick of living all alone in the family mansion, she is only 178, she wants to live life! As a second generation Vampire, she can go out in sunlight and eat food, only needs a little blood which she mixes into her coffee because she doesn’t like the taste (explaining why she never let Rajkummar share her coffee), and ages very very slowly. She had no idea that Rajkummar was staying with them, she just thought he was a nice boy who saw her as a nice girl, for once she just wanted a nice normal romance and now they have ruined EVERYTHING! Juhi and Shahrukh swear they haven’t ruined anything at all, Rajkummar is a very nice boy, they will stay out of the way.
(Look how cute they are together!)
Only of course they fail utterly and start having awkward conversations with Rajkummar, through the looking glass versions of the usual “so, any siblings at home? What caste are you?” kind of pushy parent conversations, this time about “so, how do you feel about older women? Like, a lot older?”. In the middle of all this confusion, Second Complication arrives! A surprise visitor, Shahrukh’s older brother Anil Kapoor.
Everything seems fine while Rajkummar and Dips are around, Anil even teases Dips a little. But as soon as the older generation are together, he turns cold and angry. First they have a child in some modern biological fashion instead of just turning a child and having a baby for eternity, and now they are letting her marry outside the community?????? (obvious metaphors for reactions to cross-caste adoption and marriages) Shahrukh and Juhi try to defend their choices but aren’t able to fully go against Anil because of lingering respect for him. He is in fact the “brother” of both of them, a Vampire who saved their lives 500 years ago when they were a young couple cross religious couple killed by their families in an honor killing. Anil fell in love with Shahrukh’s love poems that he wrote for Juhi and turned them into Vampires, so their love could live for ever as he wished. They owe him their undead lives and can’t bring themselves to stand up to him.
Anil continues to pretend friendliness to Rajkummar and Dips but is secretly trying to get Rajkummar alone so he can kill him. After many humorous misunderstandings, it finally is all revealed in a big action scene when Rajkummar wakes up to see Anil, teeth out and everything, about to kill him. Dips saves him using her own Vampire strength, because they are sleeping together. Anil is shocked to see her there and snarls something about her risking having a “half-breed” and she declares she already is. And then Shahrukh and Juhi rush in and there is a big ol’ family fight while Rajkummar sits in the corner and kind of quakes in fear. Until he finally stands up for himself, just as Shahrukh and Anil are about to tear each other to pieces, Juhi and Dips already injured and out of the fight, Rajkummar suddenly stands up and stakes Anil from behind, killing him. In the aftermath, after a moment of hesitation, Rajkummar goes to embrace Deepika and ask if she is really…really….really….pregnant? Dips says yes, they embrace, and then after a moment of hesitation, Rajkummar touches Shahrukh and Juhi’s feet and asks for their blessing.
A year later, Shahrukh and Juhi are cooing over their twin grandchild while feeding them little blood bottles, in Deepika’s cafe, Rajkummar is having a book signing for his massive popular text that draws the connections between 500 years of interrelated poets (all Shahrukh of course), and Deepika is happily bustling around being a “normal” wife and mother just like she wanted. Until the news crew arrives and asks to photography Rajkummar with his family and they all shout out “NO!” and Rajkummar starts giving the same story about a family vow not to have mirrors or photographs while Dips and Juhi and Shahrukh carry the kids out of the cafe, past the reflecting sunglasses of a tourist which show that even the babies don’t appear in reflections.
So, which do you like better? And was my social commentary too subtle or just right for the always socially relevant horror genre?