Kalam: A ‘horror’ show

There’s a contemporary saying that goes, “When something goes wrong in your life, just yell, “Plot twist!” and move on.” Kalam is the manifesation of this saying on screen. It’s a mediocre horror film for the most part, until a sudden twist at the end tries to distinguish it from the unimaginative horror films we are being bombarded with every week. You can almost hear the director shouting, “Hey, wait. We’re different!” But the problem is, are you really? A film is a lot more than just its twist. The Fight Clubs and the Pizzas work not just because of the clever twist, but also because the portions until the big reveal are inventive and entertaining. The same can’t be said about Kalam.

Genre: Horror
Director: Robert Raj
Cast: Amzath Khan, Lakshmi Priyaa, Srinivasan
Storyline: A family moves into a haunted mansion, or so it seems

A case in point is an extended scene that has the ghost toying with its victim, an evil man who takes ownership of properties through intimidation. The ghost walks behind him. It makes him scamper across the mansion. It shuts down all the doors. It appears and disappears in several places around the ill-gotten mansion. It occasionally snarls. All the while though, it keeps a safe distance. This scene goes on for so long that I began to wonder if it was possible that the ghost was perhaps scared of the guy. Why else was it taking so long to attack him, let alone finish him off?

Save for the twist that makes you turn back to the screen with mild interest, Kalam is a rather uninspired horror show. A haunted mansion with a tainted past. A creepy maid. Creaky doors and mysterious cupboards. Unexplained activity at the stroke of midnight. An exorcist. The horror cliches are all checked, but none of them are potent enough. It’s an indication of the ineffectiveness of the film that even the jump scares fail to startle you. The daughter-in-law of the real estate goon, Deeksha (Lakshmi Priyaa), is nervously inspecting the mansion at midnight for signs of activity, when suddenly, there’s a loud dong! The clock has just struck twelve. It probably sounds like a decent moment in your head, but on screen, it is a damp squib, much like many others that lead up to the final twist that not even the sharpest man in the theatre can possibly see coming.

These horror films also make the mistake of not taking the time to humanise their characters enough. How about establishing how close Deeksha and her husband are? How about a few scenes to show what their daughter means to them? How about showing us what’s at stake, before threatening to take it all away? I found myself not caring about anybody: not Deeksha, not her husband Gautham, not her daughter, and definitely not her evil father-in-law. For all I cared, the ghost could have gobbled up the whole family whole, and indeed, it should have very early.

This review was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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