At one point in the film, a psychic medium, played by TV's Prachi Pandya, stops mid sentence and says, without context, "I think my father is saying something." It is almost as though the bond between the psychic and spirits is some sort of telephone hotlink, a generic trope from a million other half baked ghost stories. And Vikram Bhatt's latest horror flick, Haunted 3D, hits every branch on its way down the 'cliché' tree.
Though at one point the exclusive bastion of the campy Ramsay banner and a host of B , C and D grade producers, for the past decade, director Vikram Bhatt has been a flag bearer of sorts for the Bollywood Horror film. After the superb success of the Dino Morea Bipasha Basu starrer Raaz back in 2003, Bhatt has made quite a few 'spirited' ventures, like 1920 and Shaapit, though neither were as successful are his first 'ghostly' outing.
No doubt hoping for a turn of fortunes, Bhatt's latest horror release bluntly calls itself Haunted 3D. The plot revolves around Rehan, a young property broker who's come down to Ooty to crack a mega crore deal around a palatial mansion, Glen Manor. Quite unsurprisingly, the said mansion is haunted, and has been the setting for terrifying screams that are heard there every night for over eight decades. A curious Rehan, undeterred by the sounds and sightings of bloodied arms and legs, decides to stay there alone to investigate the matter, only to discover the sob story of a girl called Meera, who committed suicide after being raped by the spirit of her piano teacher, Mr.Iyer, whose malevolent ghost continues to hold her captive and rapes her every night. Cue an interesting 'flashback' of sorts, and Rehan is on his way to save Meera from this terrible spirit.
Though he tries for a bit to craft a psychological horror out of Haunted 3D, Bhatt gives up early on in the film, writer Amin Hajee and he instead relying on shocking screams, peek a boo bloody hands and severed heads to turn up the terror meter. The scares come at regular intervals in the first half of the film, and in the dark confines of the theatre, are enough to make you jump out of your skin. However, Bhatt's screenplay sags as one returns from the interval, with the film focusing unnecessarily on the bonding between Meera and Rehan, including a pointless, nay, mindless, dance sequence which seems to be put in solely to prove that the lead actor, Mahakshay, can move.
The second half also sees Bhatt introduce clichés by the truckload, with everything from the praying Catholic priest, to an exorcising Sufi saint and spirit searing holy water making an appearance. Vikram even tucks in his favourite horror movie line in, with Rehan mouthing, 'if there are evil spirits in the world, then it also means there is a God.' By the time the climax approaches, the proceedings get positively farcical, complete with a flying ghost and hands emerging from walls, even as Rehan and the ghost fight each other almost Bruce Lee style.
Vikram also wastes his film's top USP, the much touted pioneering stereoscopic 3D view, on bad cinematography. The fact that Bhatt's horror is more physical than psychological, one would have imagined that cinematographer would have worked on using the 3D look for top scares, with a ghost reaching out for the audience, if nothing else. Instead, the film, without a hint of creative thought, occupies itself on establishing the depth of random landscape shots, actors delivering their dialogues and little else.
On the acting side, all of the actors are uniformly okay. Mahakshay, or the erstwhile Mimoh Chakraborty, tries his best to play the determined, brave Rehan, but looks a bit too baby faced to pull it off convincingly. Debutante Tia Bajpai is bearable as Meera while Achint Kaur as Meera's caretaker Margaret, and Mohan Kapur as the priest are fair, though the latter's role could count more as a simple cameo. Arif Zakaria, who plays Professor Iyer, gets a few lines before he turns into the zombie like undead ghost. Most of Zakaria's scares arise from the prosthetics on his face and he doesn't have to stretch himself to play the ghost. Though he manages an adequate turn too, as does Sanjay Sharma, who plays the mysterious chillum smoking stranger who guides Rehan on his way to defeating the ghost.
It's a bit narrow minded, but one doesn't look towards horror films in Bollywood to set the standard for acting, and that isn't the expectation with Haunted 3D. However, what audiences do count on, is for the film to deliver the scares by the dozens, and Bhatt manages that in half a measure here. While Haunted 3D has a fine few scared out of your wits moments in the first part, the horror goes haywire in the second, with only a handful of truly terrifying scenes. With its ham handed usage, Bhatt can't even count on his selling point of Haunted 3D being Bollywood's first stereoscopic 3D film to drive in the audiences.
Unfortunately for him, the film doesn't score on the musical front either, with Chirantan Bhatt's tracks being just about passable, in comparison to the chartbusting soundtrack of Raaz. Clearly, Haunted 3D needed a few more ghouls and ghosts to get the job done. Until then, Vikram Bhatt's latest is just halfway Haunted.