RAAZ, Haunted, 1920: Evil Returns, Vikram Bhatt’s fascination with horror films is a long standing one. He loves to sell fear, he proclaims. In his latest offering as writer, producer, he backs debutant director Ayush Raina in Horror Story.
Seven friends, high on revelry on a night-out at a pub, meet to celebrate the farewell of one of them who is set to go abroad. As the night closes on them, they watch the news of the shutting down of Hotel Grandiose, owing to a suicide and subsequent declarations of it being haunted causing it’s abandonment. A debate on ‘do you believe in ghosts’ ensues and in their drunken stupor, they decide to venture over to the hotel.
When asked why they had cast a bunch of newcomers, Vikram Bhatt said that he was selling fear and not stardom. Well played! The ensemble cast of mostly debutants ensures they do not overshadow or distract from the movie, like other A-star ones from the banner did earlier. Not much can be written about the acting chops as the genre requires them to be one-dimensional throughout. Yes, they do have potential; portraying fear isn’t the easiest thing. So on that count would be interesting to see what Nishant Malkani, Karan Kundra or even Hassan do next.
Some may argue that the movie is just another potpourri of the genre’s clichés – creaking doors, musical instruments, agitated soul (always a woman), sneaking upon one another, and exploring deserted corridors on your own instead of staying with the group. Maybe it is. Especially given the age we live in, we would raise so many questions about the basics and the sensibilities of the characters. In that sense, some sequences and the undercooked climax are ridiculous, but the anxiety and panic feel real. Debutant director Ayush Raina knows his narrative well, seems aware of what could be potential deja-vu’s and works smartly around them. Straying clear of skin-show, songs and other useless subplots, Ayush makes sure one doesn’t deviate from the sinister mood he attempts to create. Another win for the movie is the perfect set chosen to heighten the eerie factor of the plot. The hotel (a popular one in suburban Mumbai which was shut down owing to a law suit) is a character on its own. It adds immensity, emptiness, the claustrophobic, locked-in feeling but more importantly a credible set up for being deserted and haunted as is required of the film. It gives the filmmaker a lot of place to play with; the staircases, corridors etc are well-used, cinematography and lighting by Gargey Trivedi is additionally effective benefitting largely from the space.
Horror Story isn’t a masterpiece, yet it is one of the better movies to come of this genre. It offers cheap thrills, goose-bumpy moments and genuine shrieks unlike the giggle inducing comic moments other proclaimed horror movies. At the end ultimately it depends on how much you revel in movies of this nature. Are you spooked easily? Do you eye-roll at flying chairs, random screams and hackneyed false scares? Do you believe in ghosts/spirits? Whatever your take is, you may not hate or like this one in its entirety, but you won’t be bored either. Yes it’s not a great film, that doesn’t make it a completely bad one either.