Friday, November 29, 2019

Raat (1992)

After I watched the Indian horror film Jadu Tona, considered an Exorcist style tale, I heard about Raat as a [spiritual successor] to that movie. That made me particularly curious to check it out, but when I did I ended up being a little confused. You see, Raat feels less like The Exorcist, and more like A Nightmare on Elm Street! Really? The Indians couldn't get enough of that series! I count three so far. Hopefully there's more!

Manisha (Mini) is a teenage girl who's been unsettled lately. She's had a series of terrifying nightmares hat seem to come at any moment, whether she's asleep or not, and they seem too real. Eventually it becomes clear that an evil spirit has inhabited Mini's body, and intends to use it to get revenge on those who killed them in life...

Raat is an effectively spooky film. It keeps things simple, and knows how to build a good atmosphere. There's a nice air of mystery, too. We wonder throughout what could be causing these nightmares, and possessing Mini.

A problem this movie has however is its runtime. It's not boring by any means, nor is it even that long for a Bollywood film at only (only) two hours, but still, when over 50 minutes have passed and we're still only in the 'OooOohh, spooky!' phase of the movie with no greater story, that's a bit of a problem! I get that a longer movie would take a longer time to ramp up the tension, but if this were a 90 minute film, we'd be almost at the friggin' climax!

When we do finally move out of this phase, a full 90 minutes in, we come to the looking for a medical explanation' phase. Yeah. An hour and a half in! These sections are nobody's favourite, but we accept them as a necessary =, since normal people just don't jump to demonic possession as the first go-to solution to a problem, but when we're that far in, and there's only half an hour left, maybe get a move on and start building towards the climax!

The biggest character of this story is Mini, but as far as leads go, I didn't find her to be particularly strong/compelling. We don't really know much about her, nor do we see much of her

For the longest time, there's no onscreen villain here, instead just an invisible evil presence. At first this works very well, but as the movie goes on, I began to get annoyed at how we still know nothing about the ghost. It's only in the last act where we finally find out a bit about them, and it's hardly interesting enough to have kept us waiting so long.

Raat has a very grounded feel, despite the supernatural occurrences, and I feel this affects it negatively when compared to something like Jadu Tona. While that film too was focusing on supernatural events in the modern scientific world, everything was more creative and interesting.

Ultimately, my biggest issue with Raat is that it's just not very fun! I don't need every horror film to be fun, naturally, but when they exceed two hours, it really runs the risk of turning everything into a slog, and that's how I felt about this after the halfway point.

Raat sure knows the importance of freaky moments. These scenes have touches of A Nightmare on Elm Street in places, with eerie setpieces that manage to scare you while showing nothing at all. Mind you, this isn't a knock-off or remake of Elm Street in any way, it just bears a few superficial similarities, and similarly realised dream sequences.

This isn't a huge effects driven piece, but what moments there are are pretty well made.

The acting here is quite good, especially from Revathi! As little as I thought of the writing for her character, she portrays her well, getting across both her vulnerability, terror, and creepiness when she's possessed.

Raat is in Hindi (and Telugu?), of course, but there are occasional smatterings of English, and believe me there is nothing more confusing or disorienting than "Humuglugbofugfigfyfugyfg"-"I see". The upside though is that not only is Raat relatively easy to understand without subtitles, but these little moments will help English speakers even further to get what's going on, despite the maddening moments where questions are in Indian but answers are in English, or vice versa.

The movie's scoring is low-key for the most part. The right mix of ominous and eerie. Also conspicuously absent are musical numbers! Raat is the first Indian horror film I've seen that wasn't also a musical!

Raat is a decent film overall, but one I felt had serious flaws. Still, it's got some neat scares, and a great atmosphere, so it's not all bad.

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