After a series of films belonging to diverse genres, like GHULAM [action drama], KASOOR [suspense thriller], RAAZ [horror] and AWARA PAAGAL DEEWANA [action/comedy], Vikram Bhatt has finally found his calling with a genre that not many storytellers would venture into -- horror. Like his previous films, 1920 and SHAAPIT, HAUNTED sells the most basic emotion, fear, but the question is, do the thrills and chills send your adrenaline rushing? Is HAUNTED daunting enough? And does it succeed in giving you those heebie-jeebies that you associate with horror movies?
With HAUNTED, Bhatt merges the deadly combo of horror with 3D effectively. It's an absorbing and gripping edge of the seat horror film that keeps the mercury rising in those 2.15 hours. This movie is not for the faint-hearted, I wish to state at the very outset.
For Bhatt, it all began with RAAZ. He gave the audience a taste of classy, spine chilling horror experience with that film and after a gap of almost six years revisited the genre with 1920 and SHAAPIT. After a trilogy of spooky films and comprehending the genre better, the film-maker delivers yet another scare fest that ranks amongst his most accomplished works so far.
What really sets HAUNTED apart from films of its ilk, even those attempted by Bhatt, is the fact that it never takes the tried-and-tested route or resorts to cliches while narrating the tale of a haunted mansion. In fact, there are times when one feels that Bhatt is taking the easy route of getting back to the comfort zone with some worn out sequences, but the goings-on, all of a sudden, take a 360 degree turn and enter a zone we could've never envisioned. And this happens not once or twice, but several times in the storyline. Sure, HAUNTED packs in spooky effects aplenty like the lights going off in the haunted mansion, creaky doors, the evil spirit jumping from nowhere et al that makes a desi horror film 'comprehensive' in the true sense. But, at the same time, Bhatt uses silence to a chilling effect. Also, the plot has been well situated in the desi milieu thanks to the neat and intelligent writing by writer Amin Hajee. Bhatt and the writer's trump card is the merging of the new technology with old-fashioned beliefs and values that a wide chunk of Indians still adhere to, despite the fast-changing times.
Another prime reason why HAUNTED stays with you is, well, watching the story unfold in 3D. It claims to be India's first Stereoscopic 3D film and it better live up to it, right? After all, we have watched 3D films and also 2D-converted-to-3D films unfold on the Hindi screen rapidly, post AVATAR. Though not at par with what the West has to offer, HAUNTED definitely takes a leap by Indian standards. The technology adds a new dimension to this horror film.
Now let's look at the flipside. If the writing is smart and wicked at most times, it gives away at a few places as well. Especially when [spoiler alert] the hero goes back in time and romances the heroine. The entire dance and song sequence in the middle of the night is outrageous and despicable simply because when you have fatality staring at you in your face, you just cannot dance and sing. It takes away the gravity of the goings-on. Actually, HAUNTED would've made a greater impact had it been a songless film, since the songs act as an encumbrance in an otherwise almost perfect fare.
Besides, the rape sequence seems very tame by today's standards. In fact, the physical attacks were depicted far more illustratively in THE ENTITY and also in the Tabu starrer HAWA.
Yet another factor that makes you restless is the culmination after what the viewer presumes is the climax. Let me explain. This film prides itself in two endings. The viewer assumes that the film would end the moment the couple reaches the dargah, but it doesn't. This, despite the fact that the sequence leading to the dargah - the spirit now attains human form, flies in the air and tries to stop the couple from reaching there -- is astounding. But there's more to follow and that only prolongs the culmination by another 20 minutes. Sure, even those penultimate moments are well implemented and the 3D effects only heighten the impact, but why this need for a subsequent climax when the story could've concluded at the dargah itself? Prior to that, the miniature set depicting the sleepy hillside township [at the interval point], when the hero realizes that he is transported to 1936 from the present day, appear weird and counterfeit.
Final word? Despite the flaws, HAUNTED doesn't erase the efforts of the rest of the film. It does not fall into the category of tacky, cliched, gimmicky, brutal horror films. On the contrary, it's an absorbing, slick, efficiently told horror movie, 3D or no 3D. Catering completely to those who love to get spooked!
Set in the misty mountains, HAUNTED tells the story of the sprawling Glen Manor, a mansion with a secret past and a haunted present. Rehan [Mahaakshay], an estate agent, visits Glen Manor to complete its sale, which his father had initiated. But he realizes that certain mysterious occurrences in the manor are out to jeopardize the sale. However, when he investigates these inexplicable happenings, he discovers a secret. A spirit that had trapped another spirit in the mansion for as many as 80 years.
Like I stated at the very outset, HAUNTED is amongst Bhatt's most accomplished works. Not only has he executed the film well, the film also has several scary moments with recall value aplenty. Besides, HAUNTED must've been quite a challenge for Bhatt from the writing point of view as well, since he had to visualize the goings-on in 3D. Another facet that I wish to highlight is the clever usage of background score [Raju Rao] in the narrative. Of course, the background score is just perfect, but there are times when the silence is shattered with a music piece that only augments the bloodcurdling moment. Pravin Bhatt's cinematography is top notch.
Mahaakshay does a decent job. He's fairly good in most parts, but I found his performance to be stilted at times. However, he's come a long way from his debut film, but the lad still needs to work on his body and acting skills. Tia is absolutely excellent as the frightened victim. In fact, the actress is a complete revelation, handling a tough role in her debut film with remarkable ease. The lead pair gets major help from the supporting cast. Achint Kaur is incredible and it's really unfortunate that film-makers have never really tapped the potential of this fine actor. Arif Zakaria sinks his teeth into this role, striking terror when required. In fact, the prosthetics of Achint and Arif are worth recalling. Mohan Kapoor does well in a brief role. Sanjay Sharma, as the Sufi saint, is very good. Prachee is fairly good.
On the whole, HAUNTED is for today's movie savvy audience. It succeeds in keeping you tense and edgy, as a true poltergeist/horror flick should. There are scenes and situations aplenty to shock and astound the viewer coupled with the 3D effects, the prosthetics, the background score, an absorbing screenplay and deft handling of the subject material. It is these superior factors that outweigh the blemishes and make it an interesting cinematic experience. Go, get spooked!