Indian cinema has had no dearth of timeless classics across a wide variety of genres ranging from romance and comedy to action and dramas. Horror films, however, have been a tough nut to crack for our filmmakers. It takes a skilled crew to make a horror film that not only scares the audience but also ages well over time. Malayalam cinema is an outlier in this aspect as the industry has been able to serve a fair share of thought-provoking horror classics over decades. The runaway success of Romancham this year proves that Mollywood is arguably one of the few industries to get the genre right.
Ahead of Tovino Thomas’s horror Neelavelicham, here is a list of 10 thrillers streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus Hotstar, Zee5, and SonyLIV that you can’t miss.
Streaming on: Disney Plus Hotstar
The Mohanlal- Shobana starrer follows the story of a newly married couple, Nakulan and Ganga, who arrive at a haunted mansion, and soon experience horrific occurrences that turn their lives upside down. Left with no recourse, Nakulan calls his friend Dr. Sunny (Mohanlal), a renowned psychiatrist in the US to deal with the situation. Over time, most horror films lose their sheen and fail to evoke a sense of dread. It’s a true testament to the incredible finesse and quality of filmmaking in Manichitrathazhu that the film continues to bring out the same level of intrigue in the viewer nearly three decades after its release. The film has inspired quite a few remakes in other languages, yet nothing comes close to the original helmed by Fazil. It's hard to find Mohanlal being overshadowed in a film that he is starring in. That said, Manichitrathazhu truly belongs to Shobana. Her haunting dance in Oru Murai Vanthu is one for the ages.
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video and MX Player
Balancing horror and comedy is a difficult task. Very few films get the combination right, and Vellinakshatram is one of them. It helps that you have a charismatic Prithviraj Sukumaran in the lead, who rises beyond the film's generic writing and makes it immensely watchable. He essays the role of a heartbroken husband who witnesses paranormal incidents occurring to his daughter Ammu (Taruni Sachdev). While not possessing the spine-chilling effect of other films on the list, Vellinakshatram serves as a fun watch for Malayalam film lovers.
Streaming on: Sun NXT
A reincarnation story, Mayilpeelikkavu has a decent amount of intrigue and suspense that make this dated film an enjoyable nostalgia ride for fans of the genre. It follows the story of Manu (Kunchacko Boban), who is convinced that he is the reincarnation of Krishnanunni: a man framed and executed for the murder of his lover Kuttimani. Believing Gayatri, his girlfriend, to be the reborn version of Kuttimani, the couple soon embark on a quest to resolve the mystery of their past lives. The movie starts off as a playful romance; however, it's the twisted tonal shift to the horror genre that makes the film stand out.
Streaming on: Disney Plus Hotstar
It's been an excellent year for Malayalam cinema as far as exciting content is concerned; however, that has not translated into great box office success for the industry this year. A film that bucked this trend is Romancham, a sleeper hit that is arguably the greatest success story for a small Malayalam film post-pandemic. Watching the movie, it's not hard to decipher why it worked so well. The premise is relatable: a group of seven bachelors living in a poorly maintained house play around with an Ouija board, and soon their lives turn upside down. Material like this could come across as routine, but debutante director Jithu Madhavan extracts tension by keeping the film grounded. The characters are ordinary people, and the fresh cast of largely unknown faces give a lived-in effect. Romancham is one of those films where everything falls into place to deliver an instant classic.
Streaming on: Disney Plus Hotstar
Bhoothakaalam, starring Reavthy and Shane Nigam, is mostly about the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and her son. But at its core, it is also about ghosts, literal and metaphorical. It focuses on the lifelessness of the mother-son relationship and their everyday arguments — each frame reflecting the monotony, frustration and exhaustion. The film’s minimalistic dialogue and subtle writing help retain a mystic and ambiguous atmosphere. Unlike most other horror films, Bhootakaalam unfolds in a regular house, inducing the fear that it could be any of our houses.
Aakasha Ganga (1999)
Streaming on: YouTube
Some films are a snapshot in time that deserves to be watched for being a reminder of an era long gone by. Vinayan's Aakasha Ganga is one such film that the 90s and early 2k kids would fondly remember. It's a templated story: lovers marry after persuading their families, and the wife soon gets possessed by an evil spirit. Divya Unni puts forth a fine performance as Maya, conveying distress and horror with ease.
Streaming on: aha
Cold Case starring Prithviraj Sukumaran and Aditi Balan is the perfect example of a supernatural crime thriller. The film follows two parallel investigations — one of a murder and the other of a spirit. And it becomes more exciting when both these investigations cross paths. Has the deceased turned into the ghost or has the ghost murdered someone — what ties them both?
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Mammootty as Father Carmen Benedict doubles up as a detective who tries to solve murder mysteries, often to help spirits. However, during one such event, he meets a young girl who behaves strangely. This leads him to doubt that she is possessed by some ghost. But is she? Although the thriller is not a perfect entertainer, Mammootty’s performance and Akhil Geoge’s magical visuals make it worth your watch.
Streaming on: SonyLIV
When two police officers travel to a village called Churuli to capture a fugitive, one of them quips that it could be their ‘ride to hell’. Little do they know the dense reality of that joke. And this village is unlike anything you might have ever seen: criminals from different places live under masked identities, the local liquor shop doubles up as their church, and the more heinous the crime is, the higher one is on the social ladder. As more eerie mysteries unfold, a strange influence entraps the policemen, the village people and the viewers in a complex yet captivating maze.
Streaming on: Zee5, Hotstar
Anandabhadram cannot be bracketed within a specific sub-genre of horror. It has elements of black magic and dark fantasy, along with a historic touch. Based on Sunil Parameshwaran’s novel of the same name, the film follows the journey of a family of powerful magicians who protect the nagamanikam, a jewel on a serpent’s head. When Digambaran, an evil black magician tries to hunt for the jewel, Ananthan (Prithviraj Sukumaran) accidentally intervenes in his schemes. Apart from excellent frames and songs, what made this supernatural thriller stand the test of time was its high-octane pre-climactic sequence — which depicts a good vs. evil fight — featuring numerous magic spells, Kathakali movements and mantras.