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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Psycho movie review: An insightful film that’s not profoundly moving

Psycho movie review: Psycho, starring Udhayanidhi Stalin, Nithya Menen and Aditi Rao Hydari, is part psychological thriller, part social commentary.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Written by S Subhakeerthana | Chennai | Updated: January 27, 2020 7:04:24 pm
Psycho review Psycho movie review: The deliberate complexity doesn’t always work and that’s the only issue I had with Psycho.

Psycho movie cast: Udhayanidhi Stalin, Nithya Menen, Aditi Rao Hydari
Psycho movie director: Mysskin
Psycho movie rating: 3 stars

Psycho begins with a tribute card to Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense. A few seconds into the film, we get another card that reads: We are simultaneously worms and gods⁠—a quote by Abraham Maslow. A woman is shown writhing in pain. A man approaches to kill her. He takes a knife and butchers her head. It falls apart, and blood pours from her neck. In the next scene, the headless body is shown. Her mother identifies it was her daughter, seeing a mole on the leg. She doesn’t break down immediately but feels devastated. She walks farther, screams “Kadavule”. The loud sobs echo as she collapses.

Psycho is every bit dark and disturbing. As a psychological thriller, the film is full of twists, turns and suspense. Also, it gives you a sense of discomfort. The characters invade your headspace, adding drama, fear and anxiety. They heighten your senses. Mysskin is an avid fan of psychological literature. But I feel Psycho could have made for a fantastic novel—considering how it is shown as a thrilling page-turner.

A series of murders happen in Coimbatore. There’s an investigation to nab the criminal. But having watched Psycho, I want to talk about Bharathiraja’s Sigappu Rojakkal that was released in 1978. The Kamal Haasan-starrer showcases the life of a traumatised person, who later turns into a psychopath and ends up killing women after having sex with them. Here, the serial killer doesn’t do all that. He brings them to his place, cuts their heads, refrigerates them like how ice creams are stored in a cold box. In Sigappu Rojakkal, you could feel the fear. It felt organic. But in Psycho, it appears a tad staged. However, we quite feel the emotions we are meant to feel.

RJ Daghini (a beautiful Aditi Rao Hydari) gets kidnapped by this serial killer. A visually-impaired Gautham (Udhayanidhi Stalin) tracks her down and rescues her, with the help of former IPS officer Kamala Das (a terrific Nithya Menen). Psycho thinks it delves deeply into the world of the serial killer, but it doesn’t. We don’t convincingly get his backstory. Of course, you understand Mysskin’s vision, and what he wants to convey. But Psycho doesn’t have a powerful anti-hero. They say, the more menacing the villain is, the more successful the movie—and Psycho lacks in this aspect. Mysskin skilfully moves the plot forward, adding layers of mood and mystery to the story. It is the typical Hitchcock style—you remember the setting, but you forget the plot. Mysskin even humanises this serial killer, towards the end.

Daghini is taken to the slaughterhouse. The serial killer gives her food. We expect her to throw tantrums and not eat. But, she does. This psychopath is unassuming. He listens to Daghini, but butchers inspector Muthuraman as he finishes singing the first two lines of a haunting AM Raja number. Mysskin brings to you the story of a man whom you could have never related to, unless you were put in his shoes. He wants you to feel a certain amount of empathy towards the serial killer, but the film doesn’t achieve it. Psycho doesn’t leave your soul stunned as Pisaasu did. It leaves you wanting more.

Mysskin wants to explore too many things in Psycho—male rape, masturbation, self-destruction, confinement, perceptions and popular opinions. Psycho is a sincere film, but it doesn’t shake you. Had Psycho engaged with my heart, I would have liked it more.

The villain gives a performance that is not-so-menacing. The pain you see on the screen doesn’t transcend somehow into your body, as an audience. We don’t quite see how this character evolves to being a psychopath. We are given the whys and hows, though. It doesn’t suffice. I like how Mysskin doesn’t give two hoots about making a film with the must-haves of commercial cinema. He sticks to a genre that suits his writing style. His films question the very core of one’s belief system. The emotions pretty much exist. But, we don’t absorb them. It should be an organic process, and here it is not.

The deliberate complexity doesn’t always work and that’s the only issue I had with Psycho.

Lastly, there are three songs by Ilaiyaraaja—two sung by Sid Sriram (Unna Nenachu, Neenga Mudiyuma) and Thaayin Madiyil by Kailash Kher—we get towards the end. The visuals are mindblowing, so are the tunes.

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