Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spooky Things in 3D

Haunted (2011)
Dir - Vikram Bhatt

I am not well versed in Indian cinema. As a matter of fact I don't know that I've seen more than a couple films from the country - counting this one - so I'm not too sure how film is handled over there. According to a friend on Twitter many of their films, regardless of genre, last for 3+ hours so I was lucky to get one that ran a mere two-and-a-half hours. I found out about this film from the Fandango app on my iPhone when just checking to see what was playing in the area and after some light digging found that this is one of thirteen U.S. theaters showing the film, and the only one in Texas. Figured I'd jump on the opportunity to see India's first stereoscopic 3D film, even though I'm not a huge fan of the style. At least it was horror. Heh.

The story concerns a manor that has been haunted for 80 years by the ghosts of a woman and her attacker. This begins to consume him and he tries to find a way to free her spirit from the decades of torment, and falls in love in the process.

Yes, this film has quite a bit of romance within, something I wasn't expecting. I have not seen Twilight, though I'm sure I will someday, but I can't imagine it handles "romantic" horror in this way. Because while there is maybe a little more sappy plot than I like in my ghost stories the horror parts are very effective and don't really hold any punches. There are some great scenes in the last third of the film that seem to be heavily influenced in equal parts by The Evil Dead and Chinese wuxia films.

There are a few rather weird things about the movie that kind of took me out of the experience. First involves the score. While it is rather good, beautiful in some places, it doesn't know how to take a page from the "less is more" playbook. It starts off heavy hitting on a grand orchestral scale and I think it could have really benefitted from growing with the film. I also found it odd how "westernized" the town and people look/act in the scenes from 1936. This could be my own naivety about the region but I just didn't know a town in the Koti mountains would be that "western". Also, about an hour and fifteen minutes in there is an intermission? Can people really not wait two-and-a-half hours? This also wasn't said ahead of time and we just sat in the dark, with nothing on the screen, for about five minutes before the film resumed without warning. Really takes you out of everything that has been going.

As for the 3D - meh. It does add depth to most of the shots and there are a few "off the screen" gags but it mostly is just a gimmick without all of the fun it could be (see Piranha 3D). When there are moments of bigger gags in the middle of the screen it makes the subtitles look really weird too. I had to close one eye so I could read them. A bit annoying. That said, the style looked quite good, especially for a first attempt. Much better than any of the post-conversion 3D crap I've seen.

It's hard to recommend to someone to really go out of their way to see this because I'm not sure if it's that "important" to see. I went because I wasted to support a major chain's choice to play something like this and hopefully it will help them to bring other out of the way films to multiplexes. I would go see it again knowing what I know now and am definitely going to check out Bhatt's earlier trilogy of horror films if I can.

Oh, and yes, there is a dancing scene that has become ubiquitous with Bollywood movies. Not like the others I've seen but it was quite amusing.

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