It is still a Thursday and this has been a rare week wherein I have got a chance to explore and review content which is lesser being discussed. And before the weekend releases begin to roll, I decided to watch and review the new Tamil-Telugu bilingual film Asvins which is now streaming on Netflix. Horror as a genre has been discussed multiple times now on my portal. It is that one genre which may differ from person to person, with varied opinions that would often follow. To my knowledge, no other genre has such a subjective opinion wherein the opinions may differ drastically. And so it becomes that much more difficult for me to review a horror film, objectively speaking.
Over the years, we have been catered to multiple franchises that have served up some spooky moments of horror. Yet, the films that generally have gone unnoticed are either the lesser known short films on Youtube or some of the indie films that really have the right sensibilities and atnospherics of a horror film. So I took a gamble on the film Asvins whose premise did seem to be promising, but without quite knowing what was in store for me. So then does Asvins manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Asvins follows the story of a group of Youtubers who accidently unleash a 1500 year old demon that crosses over from the realms of darkness to their world. Will they be able to stop it? The story here has all the ingredients for a lip smacking horror film – a lonely mansion, an atmospheric setup, jumpscares, people bumped off and a mythology reference to name a few. The screenplay standing at about a 110 minutes does make for a compelling watch but it is the writing that is compromised for the technical finesse.
The film scores dramatically in the first 20 odd minutes which were probably the best that I have witnessed for a horror film in recent times. It begins in the form of a folklore wherein the presence of a demonic threat is given a foundation. The drama is divided into chapters(all connected), with each chapter name being symbolic of the occurences in the film. But the first chapter would have to be one of my favourite ones in the film! It includes a first hand reference of the strange occurences in a mansion which would remind you of the stellar horror film The Blair Witch Project. There is something about the hand held camera that packs in so many scares simply from the psychological point of view, with some clever jumpscares thrown in it. This, while there is no real context given on any of the characters. This formulates for some of the best moments of the film.
The proceedings do back in the right kind of atmospherics wherein the second chapter traces the events leading up to chapter one. Here, you are introduced to the characters as they make their way to the mansion. The atmospherics are spooky and it did give me an impression that the writers are aware of what works in a horror film. The cross slowly being submerged in water is symbolic of the absence of God in this universe, with majorly fog and grimness engulfing the area along with the high tides of the sea. This was a great way of establishing the horrors to follow. Unfortunately, the writing soon dip in the next chapter wherein the same set of events from chapter one and played out from the third person view that doesn’t quite get the drama together.
There is a mythological angle to the horror film that does work individually however I did feel that the writing wasn’t focused enough to bind the drama together. It was watchable but a little too ambitious with respect to the result whereas the truth being that had the writing focused on the atmospherics like in the first two chapters, the end result would have been terrifying. The final act too is a more of a stumbling act wherein the writers get over indulgent with the horror elements. Only briefly does the act work with final 10 minutes on the clock that sums up a screenplay which is a bit of a mixed bag. However, it is the technical prowess that elevates the overall product.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are decently well penned. The music, BGM and the sound design is simply outstanding and it adds so much of fear in the minds of the viewer who is always on the edge of his seat. This score is perhaps the best that I have witnessed for a horror film recently. The cinematography and art design are the unsung heroes of the film. Both these departments are so technically sound that they elevate the horror elements to the next level. I also liked the idea of the pink and green lighting to depict certain elements of the film(keeping them under wraps to avoid spoilers). The editing is good but it minutely stumbles in the middle act with multiple jump cuts that just squeezes the fear out of the drama. Director Tarun Teja definitely knows his job as far as the horror is concerned. His technical superiority towards his craft is excellent and he shows glimpses of it in the opening act itself. He does stumble a bit thereafter but the skills are definitely there and there are bouts of brilliance even in subsequent scenes.
The performances are pretty good here. Udhaya Deep as Varun and Muralidharan as Rahul have their moments to shine. Vimala Raman as Aarthi is wonderful in her performance despite a limited screen time. Saraswathi Menon is pretty good and has a good presence onscreen. Malina is first rate as well. Vasanth Ravi as Arjun is phenomenal having to play around with multiple expressions. His performances binds the writing and at times also rescues it despite some lapses in writing.
Asvins is a decent horror with bouts of brilliance particularly in the technical department, a film that can be watched once. Available on Netflix.