The Priest Malayalam Movie Review
Jofin T. Chacko's 'The Priest' is a generic horror film with some inventiveness, many horror tropes and cliches. Mammootty plays Father Carmen Benedict, a priest who helps the police with solving difficult-to-crack crimes. Benedict is also a parapsychologist, which means he knows a thing or two about paranormal forces. Sporting his thick beard and robes, Benedict reminds us of Kadamattathu Kathanar.
Like Kathanar, Benedict senses the presence of ghosts when he is around them. And, when it comes to investigations, he is a bit of a Sherlock Holmes. So, it is only fitting that he would find his paranormal nemesis in the film. The main issue with The Priest is that the main plot comes pretty late.
The first 30 to 40 minutes of The Priest have little to do with what happens in the rest of the film. That stretch about Benedict solving a mysterious series of suicides in a Christian family belongs in an entirely different movie. It is there in the film to set up another plot involving a different group of characters. So, it would not have made much of a difference if the movie or us watching it starts from about the 40th minute.
The main story revolves around Nikhila Vimal's school teacher, Jessie, and her student Monica's Ameya. When paranormal forces haunt them, they call Benedict for help. The film also has Manju Warrier as Susan, and Venkitesh as Jessie's lover Siddharth.
The 'less is more' rule always seems to work for horror films, but filmmakers seldom adhere to it. Fear is a difficult emotion to evoke in the audience. I would not say I was scared by anything in this film. The only few times I was genuinely freaked out by an Indian film was when watching Revathy's character in Ram Gopal Varma's 'Raat'.
Even Raat is a version of William Friedkin's The Exorcist, and so is The Priest to some extent. That Friedkin film virtually killed the genre in that it ensured that whichever horror movie released after it could not quite match up to it in terms of thrills and performances.
That means there is little scope for creativity in this genre. After all, what could filmmakers do with a story about possessed people? Not much. Chacko makes the possessed dance, an imaginative way of breaking away from horror genre conventions. So, there is a part of me that feels he has made a decent horror flick that stays loyal to the genre. But there is the other part that wanted a better setup and better pacing.
What really works in this film are the performances. Monica and Nikhila Vimal are pretty good here as a teacher and student with a strong emotional connection. Monica, especially, is really good at bringing a sense of harmony with another character.
Mammootty has the suaveness and charisma to play Father Benedict, but the character does not really require his usual acting chops. To his credit, he makes it work by conveying an element of mystery and using his sense of humor to good effects. Manju Warrier only has an extended cameo role in her first film with Mammootty, but it is fun to watch the two.
On a cinematic level, The Priest does a decent job of creating a horror ambience. But all of those posters of the movie doing the rounds on social media are mere computer wallpapers. Mammootty looks cool in the posters, but most of those are not from the actual film itself.