Chathur Mukham Malayalam Movie Review
Technology causes all the headache for Manju Warrier's Tejaswini in the wholly original techno-horror film Chathur Mukham. Tejaswini runs a CCTV business with Sunny Wayne's Antony. She is a person who often takes selfies and posts those on social media. Her life transforms completely after she buys a new phone in place of the old one.
Chathur Mukham's basic elements are the same as in many old horror films. A theme such as a negative force being transmitted is part of conventional horror. There is also the usual 'it was all just a dream' trope where a character experiences a frightening situation only to wake up and realize that they were asleep. Plus, you would know that a move is bad and conventional when an unimportant character discourages the lead character from making it. No matter how hard our filmmakers try, something keeps them going back to the tried and tested stuff. But the movie is mostly presented in a never-seen-before way. I really liked how the makers have adapted conventional elements such as exorcism to the techno milieu of this film. The treatment is fascinating, as is the whole setting.
The music by Dawn Vincent gives the film an urgent feel and an ethereal quality. At the same time, Abinandhan Ramanujam's cinematography helps set an inventive mood for this horror film while respecting the classic horror template. Another notable aspect is the film's VFX, which makes the unbelievable scenarios believable enough for the budget constraints in the Malayalam cinema industry. The acting of Manju Warrier also deserves props for the amount of believability in the film.
In one scene, a CD player turns on by itself, and the compact disc inside breaks into pieces and flies. It is an inventive way of storytelling, at least for this genre. Essentially, Chathur Mukahm works as a kind of warning against our overdependence on technology. The makers philosophize that with heavy or loaded ideas. The makers also try to bring believability to an unbelievable scenario through some facts and pseudoscience. They should have just presented it as mainly a piece of fantasy instead of combining fact and fiction. A good amount of believability will and does come from the acting and atmospherics.
Alencier Lopez is hammy and unconvincing as a techno-scientific exorciser here, whereas Sunny Wayne complements Manju Warrier well. The movie also suffers a bit from repetition as well as a lag in the second half. Seasoned horror filmmakers often say that less is more, and that they avoid showing the supernatural stuff too many times. Chathur Mukham's directors Ranjeet Kamala Sankar and Salil V as well as writers Abhayakumar K and Anil Kurian do not seem to believe much in subtlety. So, when the same kind of technological thing happens more than once, it feels slightly gimmicky and a bit exhausting.
In all horror movies, I wonder why characters go toward danger despite knowing that it is a risky move. Aside from the opportunity for jump scares, there is only one possible explanation: Horror movie characters are not smart. Some are even stupid enough to hide behind a patio door or curtain. But Chathur Mukham's characters are smarter than your average horror movie population. After all, this is a horror film about technology for the tech-savvy new generation.
It dares to reinvent the genre and succeeds in it considerably. Remember, I am saying this considering that the standard for Malayalam horror cinema is so low.