Bollywood and horror genre usually don’t get along well. The little impact intended is marred by injecting random songs or a romance into the narrative, which already seems to suffer from low-quality VFX and a poor loud score in background, making the movie come across as funny.
Dolls, zombies, creaking doors, random cracking of glass, some gravity defying stunts by lizard-like ghosts, the hydro-horror, a phone that loses its network in the worst moments, a ghost detecting device, a one-man army taking it on himself to solve the case of paranormal activities – one has seen it all in the regular horror umpteen times. We’ve even seen Ashutosh Rana as a paranormal expert professor chanting mantras to resist away spirits in the hour of the need. Dharma’s latest and rare horror venture ‘Bhoot: The Haunted Ship’ has all these cliches, still it’s worth buying into – for Vicky Kaushal is on the board putting his best foot forward to convince us that all of it is hell scary.
Bhoot aims huge right from the word go – even the usual Dharma-movie opening alaap gets disturbed by a creaking sound of the door. The money squandered is evident in the lavish production design, with the abandoned ship namely ‘Seabird’ looking like a huge endless maze with ample hallways and rooms to explore the jumpscare possibilities. At the center of it all is Vicky Kaushal as Prithvi, a shipping officer whose wife and daughter are now dead – but he is still not over that incident of their deaths, and experiences hallucinations of their presence around him. Now, this basic part got me reminiscing of one of my favorites – ‘Shutter Island’. But Bhoot thankfully steers a different way with this backstory.
With the case of paranormal activities and perpetual death stories revolving around the Seabird ship even before it was abandoned on the shores of Juhu Beach in Mumbai, the same tagged as haunted. So, just like every horror drama, our one-man army Prithvi takes the responsibility of solving this case – to end up getting entangled in the mess of hallucinations and horrors with all the ticked cliche list – both in and out of the Indian waters. Even after experiencing the dangers perpetually, he still risks his life to go on the deck alone and experience it again, until later Ashutosh Rana too joins him for the final solving of the case and sparing us the mess.
Despite using this mundane drill to induce horror, Bhoot is somewhat likable. The background score and sound effects manage the chills at the right moments. The always working psychological horror and long tracking shots feat. the protagonist to end up in a jumpscare seem loosely inspired by (my favorite) The Shining (1980) – but then the debutant director Bhanu Pratap Singh is obviously no Kubrick. Bhanu struggles to hold these shot sequences into one big picture cohesively despite successfully creating several moments of tension here and there. His writing is flawed, and makes way for ample loopholes to ponder over when the movie stops being fearsome. All breaks loose in the third act especially, when he switches back to a long emotional blunder for redemption, and eventually adheres to ‘The Conjuring’ style for finally clearing the eerie clumsiness.
In no mood to come across as gimmicky, Vicky Kaushal instills his full blood and sweat in the narrative to wonderfully deliver the intended range of expressions, though being new to this genre and universe. For most of the time, he is seen throwing himself on the floor, or simply falling from top, or just drowning. Ashutosh Rana supports him with his usual towering presence in his memorable sequences of the third act, but what he does in the big final sequence is laughable – but then, when nothing works, Ashutosh is sent to save the horror movie, exactly like Raaz (2004). A nostalgic moment, but for wrong reasons. Bhumi appears perpetually in the flashback sequences, and has a pleasant song sequence with Vicky in the beginning.
All of this lasting for a runtime of 144 minutes feels dragged after a juncture in the narrative – for the feared jumpscares get repetitive and fewer – and the charm of psychological horror tends to fade. What initially seems intriguing does end up losing my curiosity for knowing the big secret itself. Secret’s revealed? Oh, great attempt! This one merely sails for Vicky. I hope the part – 2, if made as supposed, is executed with a tighter script.
P.S.: There’s a post-credit scene too, if you can manage to sit patiently even after the drama ends.
Watch its Trailer here: Bhoot: The Haunted Ship (2020) Trailer | YouTube
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