Karthik Subbaraj’s Pizza was so good, it set the standard for horror films in Tamil cinema. The market for horror films again, and that was good. But, unfortunately, it also led to film after film trying to copy its template. Kalam, unfortunately, is the newest entry to that list.
Kalam opens with some disconnected scenes—one moment we’re in the 1920s; the next, there’s a magician from the late 80s; and then, we’re presented with a dilapidated ancestral home. The story emerges. A rogue businessman who grabs land illegally has procured a dead zamindar’s isolated house. He gifts it to his USA-returned son. As expected, they experience paranormal activities inside the house. Welcome to the plot.
For the first twenty minutes, what’s most audible is the buzz of nearly everyone in the audience chattering. It’s boring because there are few dialogues initially, and the BGM isn’t interesting in itself. The screenplay moves at a snail’s pace, and shots linger at unnecessary places. For example, in one scene the father is redecorating the ruined bungalow for his son. We are made to watch an almost three-minute sequence of every piece of furniture being placed, every painting being hung. Had these arrangements been relevant to the story, it might have been worth it. But they’re not.
The second big problem with the film is that the methods used for scaring the audience aren’t new. At all. Lights flickering, candles blown out, wind blowing, toys walking and yes, creaky doors. It’s so overdone, that a man in the audience yells out at one point, “Modhalla kadhavuku yenna podanum” (First, oil the door hinges). Horror films release every week, and the techniques are passé now. We already know that when one character sees a shadow, and points it out to her husband (who is sleeping, of course), there will be no shadow when he looks. And then he will chide her for ‘imagining things’.
There is a major plot twist towards the end. But the lead up is so cliché, that it has no impact.
With a stale plot, predictable characters, and monotonous scenes, and with the all-important twist falling flat, Kalam fall short of being a true horror film. It ends up being, for lack of better words, a pretentious version of Pizza.
The Kalam review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.