The Priest(Malayalam, Amazon Prime)
Starring Mammootty as Fr. Carmen Benedict,Baby Monica as Ameya Gabriel, Nikhila Vimal as Jessy Cherian, Manju Warrier as Susan Cherian
Directed by Jofin T. Chacko
This shiver giver about a little girl possessed by the spirit of a dead woman who is too close for comfort, is neither scary nor innovative enough to qualify as a genuine supernatural-horror thriller. Bordering on the bland, and oscillating between the creepy and the (unintentionally) comic it features,Mammoothy as a priest who spends more time tracking down murderers and criminals than addressing congregations in the church.
Come to think of it, we hardly ever see Father Carmen Benedict in the church or in priest’s rob.He is the evangelical equivalent to those filmy cops who want obey the rules. This is really for the best . Mammoothy looks like anything but a priest. This is the only film where I’ve seen him out of league with his character.
The first 45 minutes of the film form an independent unit, like an episode of Aahat, separate from the rest of the narrative when a weird little girl from an orphanage Ameya(Monica) begins to show an unhealthy attachment to a teacher Jessy Cherian (Nikhila Vimal). The little girl who plays the eerie spirit has obviously been given broad stroked instructions by the director to grin in a vacuous way and stare at people as if she was counting the pimples on their faces.
Yes, the little girl really ACTS, leaving Mammoothy’s exorcist act looking quite tame in comparison. The last 45 minutes of the purported goosebump-fest topples over with fright fatigue. The ill-lit mansion where the lights go out(somewhat like the one in the other failed fright fest Irul ) … The director tries every trick in the book to scare us.Ameya walking on the ceiling. Ameya throwing her weight around. Ameya disappearing and appearing…But the mood never gets dark enough to intimidate us. There is way too much effort put into the task of scaring the yell out of us. The shrieks are just not earned by the feeble unconvincing plot. By the time we get to know Ameya’s other-worldly connection with Jessy we are far too distanced from the circle of credibility to care about motives.
The Priest is designed as a scary seance that never takes off. Forget about waking up the dead, I found it hard to keep awake though nearly two-and-a-half hours of this sluggish slog of a narrative with not one performance to hold on to. Not even the redoubtable Mammoothy. His heart just doesn’t seem to be in it. Can’t blame him.This priest must be cross.
On the plus side Akhil George’s cinematography catches the mood of the blocked sun in the characters’ eclipsed life without losing light.The camera know what is looking for.Wish the characters were as motivated.