Midnight Run Short Film Review: Short Thrills

The only Malayalam short to be selected in the Indian Panorama section of the recently concluded International Film Festival of India, Remya Raj's thriller is a dissection  of the hunter-prey equation 
Midnight Run Short Film Review: Short Thrills

Language: Malayalam

Cast: Dileesh Pothan, Chethan

Director: Remya Raj

Night has fallen. A tall lanky boy steps out from a scrap yard and strides towards a lonely road.  He signals a lorry beaming with colourful lights and hitches a ride. Remya Raj's debut short film, Midnight Run, shot entirely at night, picks up momentum from there.

When he slides into the two-seater lorry, nothing seems amiss. He scans the interiors with amusement, framed photographs of gods, music and colourful lights. "Did you go to the local Church festival?" the lad asks the driver. The man at the driver's seat looks intoxicated, from both lack of sleep and alcohol. An uncomfortable silence descends soon after the question. But it is broken with a loud frightening snarl. "Did you kill someone?," the man asks the boy. The tension in that lorry can now be cut with a knife. With growing trepidation, the boy realises that this bearded man with shabby clothes may well be a predator. The journey progresses and the driver's body language loosens up—he picks a bottle of liquor, splashes it on the boy's face, lewdly eyeing the boy and suggestively enquiring about his mother. When the boy's destination is deliberately missed, the older man seems to be enjoying the sheer fright he is inducing in the young lad. How will he escape his captor?

Director-turned-actor Dileesh Pothan gets his best role till date and he makes a meal out of it. That transformation from a silent, unassuming man to a lewd, psychopath is unnerving. There is a scene where he scans the boy from top to bottom with a lecherous grin and along with the lad we feel our heartbeats quickening. Chetan (Guppy, Carbon, Koode) is in control as well. His is a very nuanced act where he brings a rootedness to the character. He is aware of the danger lurking before him, there is powerlessness in his body language, yet you know his mind is racing as he plans an escape.

In under 14 minutes, Remya Raj deftly crafts a road thriller, bursting with tension and suspense, all the while letting us peek into the unpredictability of the human mind and how fear is often our best survival mechanism. The writing is taut and the characters are well-etched. It's interesting how she plays up the hunter-prey equation and how fear switches effortlessly from one to another.

A lot of help comes from Girish Gangadharan (Angamaly Diaries, Sarkar) who frames the shots intricately, rapidly spacing the tension and fear inside the vehicle, yet there is an ease in his shot placements. Equally effective is the sound designing that aptly complements the frames. The last shot is a perfect closure to the roller coaster ride.

Remya Raj is someone to watch out for.

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