Aval – A credible horror film!
There are horror films and then there are Indian horror films and then there are horror comedies.The Aval team in their promotions had made it clear that theirs is a true blue horror film and they had no intention of diluting the essence by packaging it as a product that could cater to everyone. The film does firmly stand by this.
So you do know the template for these films. There is a checklist that you need to adhere to unless you are trying to pull the rug, as in, say a Pizza.. Apart from the central conceit, jump scares are what people are looking for in these films and Aval stages these extremely well. Firstly such scenes are kept minimal and so the sense of anticipation is all the more here. Most of our horror films use the BGM and then make everything silent as they prepare you for these jump scares. But in Aval the BGM is non existent in most of the other scenes as well and so you are never really sure as to when one of those ghastly images is going to pop up in front of you.
The plot in itself might not be very novel but the way the story is taken forward in the initial half does make for some compelling viewing. Though the presence of a spirit is made clear quite early on in the film there is an interesting play through the psychiatrist played by Suresh. He firmly believes that Jeniffer (who is believed to be possessed) is actually obsessing over something that is non existent. The best part is that the film does not convince us that he thinks so just because he is a a psychiatrist. It sustantiates the same with Jeniffer's characterisation that includes a fascination for the supernatural. Also in one of the earlier scenes when Suresh speaks to the girl we have a photo frame in the background with these words 'We are what we pretend to be'. So this dilemma on whether this actually could only be a state of mind of Jeniffer keeps us engrossed. I also did particularly enjoy the fact that the film never shows the characters as being stupid and roaming around in the dark to invite trouble. How often have we seen such characters walking around in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Here everyone actually tries to get out of the trouble only to be pulled back by force.
The cast is extremely competent and the actors play their parts subtly. This is a pleasant surprise given the nature of the film. Siddharth in one of his recent interviews had remarked that he took up production as he felt like a pawn in the system with not much control. But his clarity in willing to be a pawn as an actor and not a hero in such a film that demands him to be a pawn is admirable.
Shreyaas Krishna's cinematography is exiquisite apart from being eerie when needed. A couple of aerial shots are breathtaking. The 180 degress tilt in particular was nicely done and this is cleverly used as an important part of the narration and not merely as a gimmick.
The portrayal of the physical intimacy of the lead pair too actually has a very strong justification. You sort of think as to why so many such scenes in the earlier portion of the film but they all make sense towards the end. The film operates well within the logical elasticity of a horror film. But there is one glaring question. Very early on in the film Jeniffer jumps into a well on purpose and gets rescued. This is the very first of the disturbing events that happens to her. But no one even questions her on why she does this? This apart, the film has very few things going against it. I would have liked the ending to be crisper as it seems to stretch a little bit towards the end. This is primarily because everything has been laid out and you know how the last 15 minutes are actually going to turn out. But these are minor grievances.
Aval is a credible horror film that plays within the rules of the genre. The technical competency of the team has ensured that the bar for these films has been raised.