Mercury (Silent) (U) 108 min Cast: Prabhu Deva, Sananth Reddy, Deepak Paramesh, Shashank Purushotham, Anish Padmanabhan, Indhuja, Gajaraj Director: Karthik Subbaraj

Horror films as a genre seem to follow a fixed template that usually ends up becoming predictable. I don’t count some of the classic ones here, but the ones with a group of youngsters getting stuck in a ghost town is so much of a yawn, really!

Prabhu Deva-starrer Mercury, written and directed by Karthik Subbaraj, tries to juggle a thriller horror story with a not-so-original twist: it remains non-verbal, but not “silent” as the publicity of the film suggests.
Subbaraj also tries to include a real-life tragedy that of several people dying in many parts of the world, including India due to poisoning.

Here, a group of hearing and speech-impaired adolescents try to escape from a man who has fallen prey to mercury poisoning. These youngsters (Sananth, Indhuja, Deepak Paramesh, Shashank Purushotham, Anish Padmanabhan) have come together for a college reunion at a bungalow in a hill station, and spend all their time and energy playing and dancing to loud music. When the idea of going for a spin late night appeals to all of them, they all huddle together in their van and buzz off. During the drive, a guy they are connected with through the benevolence of a school teaching special kids gets bumped off by them accidentally. They don’t know that not just they themselves but the victim (Prabhu Deva) too has been a sufferer of the same poisoning company Corporate Earth.

Panic-stricken, the five have little help coming their way in an unfamiliar place. And, as expected, the only thing that comes to their mind is, to somehow dump the body somewhere, where it would be most unlikely to get discovered. Needless to add, at this point, the film risks becoming trite. With fewer probabilities of becoming any better.

The body is suitably hidden from the rest of the world or so they presume until one of them realises that he has lost his cell phone, and the search for it lands them back to the place where the dead lay concealed. To their horror, they find the departed soul missing from the heap they had piled him up on.

Is he really dead? If not, the missing corpse’s mysterious disappearance makes all of them dread the worst.

Where could the body be? Writer-director Subbaraj wastes little time in setting his protagonist, who seems more of an anti-hero, to display too much composed relish in avenging his case of hit-and-run case.

Unsurprisingly, from then on, the film’s jumbled second half reveals many subtexts as primarily accidental, that too out of the blue that have little traces of coherence.

What makes it a painful watch is: too many unsolved threads. To make sure that there are enough shots of other unexplained stuff, the director displays supernatural leanings with sudden camera jerks stumping us. There are also scenes of unsparing gory violence that could be shock-inducing, which makes you wonder that the film is not so much about a tragedy that struck this town many years ago, but more about taking revenge.

From then on, one clearly knows how the story is going to unfold, even as there is yet another story of heroism and resilience in the face of terrible odds. Thankfully, many unnecessary trappings are avoided that would undoubtedly lead to glutinous sentimentality that gets associated with such a story. Not that the film takes a gritty, naturalistic approach either, as there is mysterious glib about the way it delivers its inevitable “poetic justice” ending.

The writer doesn’t make it clear how prolonged exposure to chemicals leads to poisoning and results in permanent impairment. The focus, it seems, is on creating thrilling horror moments silently. The soundscape of the film is not in the least “silent”. Not even subtly so in scenes that don’t require ferocity. The entire film is a noisy mess, and Santhosh Narayanan’s musical score and Kunal Rajan’s sound design are jarring. The characters seem to speak in sign language but end up looking caricatures. There are places where the writer leaves you to figure out what is being said when the accompanying scenes have actors oddly gesticulating or seemingly raising their voices.

I had a tough time figuring out details!

The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories.

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