Horror movies aren’t for everyone, even during the best of times. What about when you’re staying at home during a global pandemic, and the bad news just seems to keep on coming? Well, then it may help to forget your real-life worries and lose yourself in the jump scares and psychological thrills in these scary Malayalam movies streaming online. Some of them even have subtitles!

1. Manichithrathazhu

Shobana in 'Manichithrathazhu'

Shobana in ‘Manichithrathazhu’

Rightly considered one of the classics of Malayalam cinema, Manichithrathazhu has been remade into several Indian languages, but you should still watch the original for Shobana’s spectacular performance. She shifts between the docile Ganga and bloodthirsty Nagavalli with such skill that some scenes will send a chill down your spine. Directed by Fazil and written by Madhu Muttam, Manichithrathazhu gives a psychological twist to a story filled with familiar myths. It is the power of suggestion that still makes Manichithrathazhu so scary, 26 years after its release—what you can hear but can’t see. Add to this Mohanlal’s assured performance as Dr. Sunny and a hair-raising climax—drop everything and watch this film now.

(On Amazon Prime, Hotstar with subtitles)

2. Bhargavi Nilayam

Prem Nazir and Vijaya Nirmala in 'Bhargavi Nilayam'

Prem Nazir and Vijaya Nirmala in ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’

This cinematic adaptation of Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer’s short story, Neelavelicham, is about a writer (Madhu) who, intrigued by the presence of a ghostly woman (Vijaya Nirmala) in his new bungalow, decides to write her story. This leads to a beautiful romance developing between them. Directed by A. Vincent and released in 1964, the film is spooky, poignant, and beautifully narrated, making it one of the rare horror-romantic stories in Malayalam cinema that still holds up.

(YouTube, no subtitles)

Prithviraj in 'Ezra'

Prithviraj in ‘Ezra’

A fancy antique box opens up a series of paranormal encounters in the life of a young couple (Prithviraj and Priya Anand). Soon, they learn that the Dybbuk box has a history of romance, betrayal, and murder behind it involving a Jewish man called Ezra and a Christian girl called Rosy. Ezra’s soul is trapped inside the box using black magic, leading to a complicated tale of Jewish exorcism and spooky encounters, with a big twist in the end. Directed and written by Jay K, with cinematography (Sujith Vasudev) that makes you live the experience and the right music (Rahul Raj and Sushin Shyam, this spooky film is worth your time.

(Hotstar, with subtitles)

4. Aakasha Ganga

Aakasha Ganga

Aakasha Ganga

Director Vinayan’s 1999 movie was a big hit, with its dramatic spin on the familiar revenge ghost drama. It has all the usual tropes—a black cat, ghost in white sari singing a haunting song, beautiful woman possessed by a spirit—but Vinayan managed to make it work. The making now seems old-fashioned and gimmicky and the humour outdated, but on the whole, this Divya Unni-starrer with some surprisingly effective songs still holds up.

(YouTube, no subtitles)

Wamiqa Gabbi in 'Nine'

Wamiqa Gabbi in ‘Nine’

A debut venture of Prithviraj Productions, directed by Jenuse Muhammed, Nine was technically billed as a science fiction film (a comet will pass by Earth over a period of nine days, resulting in complete darkness. How will humans survive?) with Prithviraj playing Albert, an astrophysicist who shifts to the Himalayas to study the comet invasion more closely. But the film really comes into its own when the narrative unfolds its paranormal layers, with the arrival of a blue-eyed, auburn-haired woman into the home of Albert and his son. Soon, it turns into a spine-chilling cat-and-mouse game between Albert’s son and the woman, with the latter trailing him, eventually leading to a twisted climax. With fantastic special effects, nightmarish forms, and a fantastic performer as the ghost, Nine is scary as hell.

(Hotstar, with subtitles)

Perhaps the scariest image of horror for the ’80s generation would be Lakshmi, the protagonist of Lisa, being possessed by the spirit of Lisa, a young, orphaned woman out to avenge her rape and murder. The image of Lakshmi swirling around in a chair as her face becomes increasingly grotesque is a chilling image even to this day. Horror motifs in cinema can reveal what a society fears most at the time. Lisa grappled with the fear and threat posed by the modern working woman, as the spirit was an orphan and financially independent when she died. Directed by AG Baby, a large part of Lisa’s narrative takes place in a working women’s hostel. The heroine, Lakshmi, comes from an orthodox Hindu family in rural Kerala. A job brings her to the city, and she shifts into the working women’s hostel and the room that was once occupied by Lisa. The film is replete with imageries that soon became familiar tropes—the spirit who appears on a full moon night, the barking dog, the black cat, and the woman in a white sari with her long hair let loose and an eerie laugh. Shot by PS Nivas, the cinematography is gimmicky, but no Malayalam horror movie binge can be complete without this film.

(YouTube, no subtitles)

7. Sreekrishna Parunthu

Mohanlal in 'Sreekrishna Parunthu'

Mohanlal in ‘Sreekrishna Parunthu’

A young, amorous tantric is forced to embrace celibacy to uphold his family tradition. Breaking his vows will dimnish his magical powers. Sreekrishna Parunthu was directed by Vincent, based on PV Thampi’s novel, and starred Mohanlal. The film was something of a culture shock at the time of its release, with its explicit depiction of tantric practices and sex in the backdrop of horror. Placed in the background of an ancient Namboothiri tharavadu with a history of tantric practitioners who cured snake bites and had the power to ward off evil spirits, the film didn’t have the finesse of Vincent’s previous horror films, but was still spine-chilling with its cobras, eagles, bedecked ghostly women with flowing hair and screeching laughter, who constantly tried to seduce the young tantric to make him powerless. Music played a key role in spiking the horror.

(Hotstar, with subtitles)

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