Rahul Sadasivan’s Bramayugam draws not just from Kerala folk horror traditions but also other films. The Malayalam box-office hit is set in the 17th century and revolves around a decrepit manor seething with secrets.

Mammootty plays a variation of the monstrous casteist landlord he performed to perfection in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Vidheyan (1994). A sequence in Bramayugam in which ossified values run smack into a new adversary references Mel Gibson’s period drama Apocalypto (2005).

Sadasivan’s use of horror movie devices to explore the indignities of caste follows previous such attempts to inventively address social injustice. These include Bryan Forbes’s The Stepford Wives (1975), an adaptation of the Ira Levin novel of the same name. In The Stepford Wives, a photographer stumbles upon a programme run by a group of men to replace their wives with domesticated, submissive robots. The capture of the human body is also the main theme of Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out (2017).

The Stepford Wives is one of the acknowledged inspirations of Peele’s directorial debut. Get Out has a layered script by Peele that has more meanings than can be unpacked in a single viewing. The movie is on Prime Video and Jio Cinema and is available on a pay-per view basis on ZEE5.

Get Out digs deep into the various meanings of race relations in America through the travails of the photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). Chris accompanies his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to the home of her parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). The couple, who also have a son Jeremy (Caleb Landry-Jones), make a series of well-meaning but racist remarks that sets Chris on edge. A housemaid with archaic manners and an overly polite gardener – both Black – convince Chris that something is seriously wrong.

Peele brilliantly sets up his film’s sinister themes, littering the screen with clues that add up to a terrible truth. For the nefarious plan against Chris to succeed, it is crucial that his mind and then his body be colonised – a neat summery of the history of slavery in America.

There are many more ideas bubbling under the surface of Peele’s tightly constructed, nail-biting thriller. His warped variation of the “meeting the parents” scenario provides a fresh way of addressing institutional crimes against historically subjugated groups. The movie is beautifully performed too, but just by Kaluuya but the extended cast.

Bramayugam, which is in stark monochrome, similarly looks at caste through the prism of possession. The low-caste singer who has the misfortune of meeting Mammotty’s landlord, is a target of sorcery that demands total control over the mind and the body. Both movies have a house of horrors with visible dark zones and invisible boundaries that trap their inmates. In Get Out, the “sunken place” to which Chris is sent is more than a psychological state – it is the very place where Black lives are knowingly dumped to be forgotten forever.

Get Out (2017).

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