Phoenix Movie Review Rating:

Star Cast: Aju Varghese, Nilja K Baby, Abhirami Bose, Chandhunadh, Anoop Menon, Bhagath Manuel

Director: Vishnu Bharathan

Writer: Midhun Manuel Thomas

Review of 'Phoenix'
Review of ‘Phoenix’ Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

What’s Good: “Phoenix” breaks free from traditional horror tropes, focusing on the emotion of longing rather than vengeful spirits. The screenplay skillfully intertwines a love story with a deadly cholera outbreak, creating a unique and nuanced narrative. The deliberate pace and avoidance of excessive jump scares contribute to the film’s eerie atmosphere.

What’s Bad: While the film successfully explores complex themes, the romantic exchanges between Freddy and Anna sometimes suffer from an overly dramatic tone. An attempt to present Freddy in a positive light feels unnecessary, given his self-centered nature. The first half is marred by an excessive use of suspenseful music, potentially disrupting the viewing experience for some.

Loo Break: Around the 47-minute mark, there is a sequence involving a hospital visit and a conversation with the priest about the family’s predicament. This part of the film offers a temporary shift in focus from the main horror elements and provides an opportunity for a brief break. If nature calls or if you need a moment to stretch, consider taking a short break during this hospital and priest visit sequence. Just ensure you return promptly to catch the evolving mysteries and eerie atmosphere as the story unfolds.

Watch or Not?: “Phoenix” sets a new standard for Malayalam horror films, captivating with familiar tropes presented uniquely. If you appreciate horror narratives embedded in poignant love stories, this film is a must-watch. The careful blend of fear and intrigue, coupled with exceptional technical prowess, makes it a compelling cinematic experience.

Language: Malayalam

Available On: Prime Video

Runtime: 2h 12m

User Rating:

Vishnu Bharathan’s “Phoenix” unfolds a tragic love story entangled in the realms of horror. Set in the 90s, the film follows Advocate John Williams and his family as they move into a beach-adjacent house, only to be haunted by the spirit of Rose, yearning for her lost love, Freddy. The narrative weaves through mysterious letters, a cholera outbreak, and a love story that transcends death.

Review of 'Phoenix'
Review of ‘Phoenix’ Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

Phoenix Movie Review: Script Analysis

Midhun Manuel Thomas’s screenplay for “Phoenix” marks a refreshing departure from the typical horror narrative, placing a significant emphasis on the emotion of longing instead of relying on conventional vengeful spirits or possessed entities. The choice to intertwine the horror elements with a deadly cholera outbreak introduces layers of complexity to the storyline, deviating from the predictable paths often trodden in the genre. This distinctive approach enriches the narrative, resonating particularly with those who have confronted challenges presented by real-world pandemics, notably the recent struggles with the coronavirus. By delving into themes of love, loss, and the yearning for reunion against the backdrop of a historical catastrophe, the script strikes a profound chord, offering a horror experience that is nuanced and emotionally resonant for the audience.

Although Midhun’s screenplay adeptly steers clear of the usual reliance on excessive jump scares, it doesn’t hesitate to craft spine-chilling moments. The deliberate pacing and meticulous groundwork for impending horror showcase the filmmaker’s intention to instill fear not only through the spirit’s resurgence but also through scenes depicting the masses grappling with the cholera outbreak. This strategic choice contributes to the film’s ability to captivate audiences without relying solely on visual effects or cheap thrills. However, the script’s attempt to present Freddy in a more positive light, despite his self-centered nature, introduces an unnecessary element that could have been handled differently. This decision slightly dilutes the intensity of the horror narrative and adds a layer of melodrama to the romantic exchanges between Freddy and Anna.

Amid occasional hiccups, Midhun’s screenplay adeptly constructs a narrative that defies conventional horror norms, delving into intricate and nuanced plots. The deliberate choice to center the supernatural occurrences around the emotion of longing distinguishes “Phoenix” from its genre counterparts. In its entirety, the script plays a substantial role in the film’s triumph, presenting a contemplative and inventive storytelling approach within the horror genre.

Phoenix Movie Review: Star Performance

“Phoenix” boasts a stellar ensemble cast that delivers commendable performances, elevating the film beyond the typical horror genre standards. Aju Varghese, known for his prowess in comedic roles, impressively showcases his versatility as Advocate John Williams. Varghese adeptly conveys tension and portrays nuanced shades, proving that he can handle character roles with depth and intensity. His performance goes beyond expectations, leaving a lasting impression and underscoring his ability to transition seamlessly between genres.

Nilja K Baby, in the role of Daisy, brings precision to her performance, effectively portraying the complexities of a strained marital relationship. Despite limited screen time, Anoop Menon deviates from his usual roles to deliver a memorable portrayal as a priest, showcasing his acting range. Chandhunadh and Bhagath Manuel equally contribute to the film’s success, earning commendation for their roles in navigating the mysteries surrounding Freddy and Anna. However, it is Abhirami Bose, in the role of Anna Rose, who truly steals the spotlight. Despite encountering some cheesy dialogues, Bose skillfully transcends this flaw, radiating sophistication and effectively conveying the emotion of yearning in a flawless manner. Her captivating performance adds depth to the film’s emotional core and establishes her as a talent to watch in the industry.

Chandhunadh, in the role of Freddy, delivers a praiseworthy performance, presenting a striking appearance and a captivating smile that positions him as a promising leading man in Mollywood. His portrayal suggests the potential to ascend as a rising star with subsequent opportunities. The young artists also skillfully contribute to the film, portraying their roles with genuine conviction. In totality, the stellar performances in “Phoenix” play a pivotal role in the film’s triumph, with each actor delivering their best and collaboratively crafting a compelling and immersive cinematic experience.

Review of 'Phoenix'
Review of ‘Phoenix’ Is Out! (Picture Credit: IMDb)

Phoenix Movie Review: Direction, Music

In his inaugural foray into directing, Vishnu Bharathan asserts his mark with a deft touch in steering “Phoenix.” Melding the realms of horror and romance seamlessly, Bharathan skillfully constructs an eerie realm that engrosses viewers throughout the film’s entirety. The palpable tension within the characters and the enthralling atmospheric scenes underscore Bharathan’s adeptness in crafting a compelling narrative. The transitions between the contemporary haunting and the evocative depictions of a bygone reality are particularly captivating, a testament to the editing finesse exhibited by Nithish KTR.

The musical score by Sam CS significantly enhances the overall viewing experience of “Phoenix.” Especially noteworthy is the impactful background music that effectively builds tension and fear in the first half of the film. Despite occasional loudness, the background music complements the eerie atmosphere, contributing to the film’s success in creating a sense of dread. The soulful tracks, including the standout “Ennile Punchiri” performed by KS Chithra and Kapil Kapilan, linger in the hearts of the audience well beyond the movie’s conclusion. Sam CS’s contribution to the film’s sonic landscape aligns seamlessly with the tone.

Phoenix Movie Review: The Last Word

“Phoenix” transcends the ghosts of Malayalam horror, setting a new standard with its unique treatment of familiar tropes. Despite minor flaws, the film emotionally captivates, leaving viewers longing for the tension and fear experienced in its initial half. A promising debut for Vishnu Bharathan and a testament to the evolving landscape of Malayalam cinema.

Phoenix Trailer

Phoenix releases on November 17, 2023.

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