The Priest is a Malayalam-language supernatural horror thriller movie directed by Jofin Chacko and starring Mammootty, Manju Warrier, Nikhila Vimal and Saniya Iyappan, alongside other cast members.
Let me just share a small anecdote before starting this review: there is a special place for teachers who call out the students’ examination marks in front of all the other students in a class – and it’s not a pleasant place to be.
Anyway, The Priest is the latest horror offer in Malayalam cinema. The movie, which boasts of big names like Mammootty, follows the keen investigative intuition of Fr Carmen Benedict who uses his powers of observation (and his trusted furry friend!) to solve crimes deemed too complex by the police force.
As is abundantly seen in Indian movies, the Indian police force can never really do a good job at solving crimes. The bumbling bunch at law enforcement always find themselves at a disadvantage and become nothing more than a source of information that the main protagonist uses so as not to do much leg work. That is the same in The Priest.
Benedict is the fedora-wearing, hunter stick-wielding priest who is lured into a series of mysterious suicides by Diya, who randomly shows up at his place one day. However, as he takes up the case to look deeper into it, the sole remaining member of the Alatt family, Elizabeth, also turns up dead in an apparent suicide.
The murder-mystery thing was interesting, since there’s a troubled kid, Ameya, in the middle that seems to add something to the storyline. However, when The Priest declares around the 40-minute mark that there’s more to uncover than just the killer of these suicide-turned-murders, I couldn’t help but groan loudly. Unfortunately for the movie, the murder revelation wasn’t too interesting in the end and did not end up mattering.
That is because The Priest takes a sharp turn for the supernatural from here on out and at 2 hours 25 minutes, drags badly. After a while of the unbelievable things happening in front of your eyes, you kind of shut down and let the movie run its course because you realise the movie is all about Mammootty’s Fr Benedict being a hero and that’s it.
Unfortunately for The Priest, had director Jofin Chacko kept the movie strictly within the confines of a murder mystery instead of taking the supernatural route and played with who could’ve killed an entire family, and why, it would’ve been much more believable and a generally good watch. However, in order to provide a mystery bigger than what we can fathom, the film just becomes boring and does not do much in terms of entertainment.
The sound department is good though, albeit a bit much, and the background scores do justice. Mammootty is great as well, which goes without saying. He embodies the quiet and reserved clergyman with wit in his eyes well. This is the second movie I have watched featuring Saniya Iyappan in 2 days – although she mostly looks scared or confused for the better part of her short appearance with nothing much to do, she’s still a good watch. Monica as young Ameya is also relentless as the troubled child. It’s also to mention that most of the cast members feel like mere props to drive the movie forward and provide the twists, which is extremely disappointing.
Summing up: The Priest
The Priest’s horror, unfortunately, does not work. As stated above, at 140 minutes, it becomes a bit much afterwards – there’s only so much loud noises and surprises that one can take. Had the movie focused more on the murder-mystery angle it would’ve made for a thrilling ride and been believable and scarier. However, in order to add the masala and some intrigue, the movie introduced a few plot twists which, audiences who pay some attention will be able to figure out from miles ahead. The movie absolutely went off the rails to a point of no return and was quite a confusing, and rather unsatisfactory, experience.
The Priest is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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