If you like your horror cinema to be easily classified—the common categories include “psychological” vs “supernatural”, or “quietly creepy” vs “full of jump scares”—you might be intrigued by the Malayalam film Bhoothakaalam, about a middle-aged woman and her son battling personal demons. In tone, setting and characterisation, this is a subdued work rather than one of explicit terrors. Asha (Revathi) and Vinu (Shane Nigam) seem afflicted by a sadness, the causes of which aren’t spelt out, though we grasp things about their past and present—a husband/father who died, leaving behind unhappiness and debt; a boy who misses him and sees his mother as clinging; a woman who can’t conceive of life without her son.
But while Bhoothakaalam maintains its grounded tone, it also has things that go bump in the night… and there is a haunted house too (albeit, in a bright residential area, far from the archetype of the isolated mansion). Without giving away too much, midway through the narrative there is a slight shift in our perceptions about what is going on, and a sense that subtle and supernatural can go together.