Everything interesting about the supernatural rests beyond the carnate world. And we have seen horror titles where, like the tangible human body, inanimate materials are used as mediums for the supernatural. In 2009, we got two films, Eeram and Yaavarum Nalam, that banked on this idea. The latter even had a mobile phone get hijacked by a spirit as the medium to the human world, and so did 2020’s Andhaghaaram.
Story of Things
Similar is the case with Sony LIV’s latest anthology series Story of Things, in which writer-director George K Antoney gives life to inanimate objects in different forms to tell five distinct stories. Even here, we see a mobile phone become a supernatural portal. However, Story of Things is unlike anything we have seen before, and here, the material things take the foreground and are used as more than just gimmicks. Apart from horror, other sub-genres of speculative fiction are also touched upon. The core idea and the format are used to their advantage, and George taps into the peculiar situations that can arise when ordinary objects behave unusually. This is primarily what the series aims to do — it isn’t a typical horror series meant to scare you with gore/ jump scares or darkness — and it’s fascinating how each of these stories explores specific emotions.
For instance, in Weighing Scale, an ordinary story gets elevated into something ambiguously unnatural as it explores guilt and penance. When Ram (Bharath) and Titus (Linga), aspiring actors, are close to grabbing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a moment of carelessness endangers the life of a stranger. Titus, ridden with guilt, urges Ram to surrender to the police, but Ram refuses to let go of the aspirational life he craves. Things take an eerie turn when the latter is haunted by a weighing device he finds in his late grandmother’s belongings that weighs his sins in addition to his body weight.
Weighing Scale is the first of the five stories, and it sets up the mood of the rest of the series quite well. In Compressor, the stakes are pushed a little further through an air conditioning unit that refuses to switch off. When Raghu (Roju) chances upon a bundle of cash, he asks his live-in girlfriend Shruthi (Ritika Singh) to either plan a vacation for the two, or buy an air conditioner. She buys a second-hand AC, and the object begins to trouble Raghu. When he goes missing all of a sudden, Shruthi begins to investigate.
Compressor, however, is the weakest of the five stories in terms of depth and innovation. Car and Cellular, on the other hand, are more classical in their approach to the genre. In Cellular, a regular story of our times about a controlling mother (Gautami) and a daughter wanting to break free, gets a horror twist unexpectedly. Having been raised in the shadow of her mother, Vannamayil (Aditi Balan) decides to do as she likes for once, and the unfortunate happens. But Vannamayil gets the scare of her life when she gets an otherworldly call.
Meanwhile, Car has Britto (Shantanu Bhagyaraj) on a brave quest to overcome the fear of his abusive father (Siddique) and his car. Every time his mother questioned his father for beating him, little Britto would get locked up by his father in his car with a watchdog standing guard. Inside that dark and dingy car, Britto’s fears manifest in many forms. Decades later, Britto decides to fight back, but the ghosts of his past return.
Both these stories delve into the psyches of the protagonists and have them deal with the trauma that the relationship with a parent brings in. In Vannamayil’s case, it is the dependency she has on her mother and the guilt of wanting freedom that punishes her. Even though he has chosen to overcome his phobia and deal with his past, Britto’s journey has layers of pain, and he has to deal with the very foundation of who he grew up as. Material things, apart from becoming mediums for the paranormal, also become metaphors in these stories.
George saves his best for the last, and we get a beautiful story of how a little girl becomes the friend-in-need for a heartbroken college-goer. After he is thrown out of his hostel, Sethu (Vinoth Kishan), who is suffering a terrible break-up, moves into the attic of an old house. He questions his own sanity for a moment when a ten-year-old girl named Nazia talks to him through an old dresser mirror. Mirror, the final episode in the series, is hopeful and heartwarming; it’s also interesting how George retains a lot of ambiguity and only lets the emotions speak.
It’s impressive how the storytelling form remains consistent throughout the series and the overall theme anchors them all. It’s also lovely to see filmmakers use the silence and background score well; the music, scored by Madley Blues (Harish Venkat and Prashanth Techno), and the sound design complement the writing too.
Story of Things is one of those rare titles that makes you want more. The very concept does half its job, and one can think of a host of possibilities that can come out of it.
Story of Things is currently streaming on Sony LIV