BOTTOM LINE: The Sharp Atmospherics Needed Sharper Writing To Make It Memorable
Rating: 2 /5
Skin N Swear: None
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama, Horror|
What Is the Story About?
Netflix’s latest Original film Kaali Khuhi is a horror drama with a brutally blunt message at its core. Within its depths, fictional horror meets with real life horror – the horror that plays out in every town, every village, and yes, every city of India – the heartless, cold-blooded killing of female babies – foetuses in the womb, just-borns, or toddlers. Kaali Khuhi, which literally means ‘black well’ is a story that takes into account the widespread female infanticide in the country, and spins a horror yarn around it.
The film is directed by debutant director Terrie Samundra. She has also written the story, along with David Walter Lech. Rupinder Inderjit is credited with writing the dialogue of Kaali Khuhi.
The narrative is set in a tiny, nameless Punjab village. Precocious 10-year-old Shivangi (Riva Arora), who is largely a city-bred girl, has to return to the village along with her parents Darshan (Satyadeep Misra) and Priya (Sanjeeda Shaikh), as her granny (Leela Samson) is gravely ill. Little do they know that the illness is a result of supernatural happenings around her. As Shivangi settles into her granny’s home, the gravity of the terror at hand hits her hard. With the help of her granny’s kindly neighbour, Satya Maasi (Shabana Azmi), Shivangi gradually understands the haunting and the motive of the spirit. She also realises that if the village and its people are to be saved, the onus rests on her tiny young self.
Riva Arora has given a terrific rendering of a petrified yet determined young girl. Her large expressive eyes convey Shivangi’s horror brilliantly. It is an assured performance that firmly holds the film together. Shabana Azmi acts as the perfect foil to Riva. Her presence is the stabilizing factor in the narrative; and her poised performance proves it beyond measure.
Satyadeep Misra and Sanjeeda Shaikh lend admirable support to the narrative. The other two child artists, Hetvi Bhanushali and Rose Rathod, who play the spirit and Riva’s friend Chandni respectively, are passable.
Kaali Khuhi is a rare horror film that gets the horror right. The film is high on atmospherics – the sound design and visual imagery are top notch. The sound design is crackling with chilling effect. The sound design creates an aural world that is highly affecting, elevating the mood, atmosphere and tone of the narrative with startling results. Likewise with the visual imagery. It is stunning, to say the least. After a long time, mist has been used with heightened effect in a Hindi film. The mist, in Kaali Khuhi, does what the rain does in Tumbbad — imbues a relentless undertone of dread to the proceedings. The darkness, punctured by shafts of light now and then, adds to the horror with decisive malevolence.
The gory scene in the climax — that of a throbbing, pulsating womb, which bursts to ooze out a sinister-looking gunk — is reminiscent of the bloodied, sinuous, pulsing womb in Tumbbad. It is a disturbing, well-constructed scene. Likewise, a shot right at the start of the film – a close-up shot of Shivangi’s ‘gola’ dripping ominous red globs into a well below – is dark and prophetic.
The aural and visual imagery, however, are the only good thing about Kaali Khuhi. The writing — the other crucial element of a memorable horror flick — is sorely disappointing. A grim subject is handled with simplistic storytelling. Its resolution is even more simplistic, and doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t help that there’s only so much the writers can do with a plot such as this.
Loopholes abound, adding to the feeling of dissatisfaction. Several times in the narrative, the ghost attacks primary characters, not to kill, but only to leave them incapacitated. Then, only a few scenes later it strikes again, this time to kill. Laughably, the first attack does nothing to alert the victims to their impending fate. They go rushing in, where any one in their right mind would fear to tread. A desolate birthing chamber situated at the top of the house is where all the spooky action takes place.
Kaali Khuhi is a horror flick with its heart in the right place. The message it slams home is hard-hitting, much like the other horror dramas with a moral – Tripti Damri’s Netflix film, Bulbull, and Rajkummar Rao – Shraddha Kapoor’s Bollywood flick, Stree. It is the writing that lets it down.
Music and Other Departments?
The background score of Kaali Khuhi is perfect – spooky and atmospheric, without being in your face or grating to the ears – the bane of typical horror movie soundtracks. Daniel B George has done excellent work with the background score. The sound design, as we mentioned earlier, is top notch.
Angelica Monica Bhowmick’s production design and Sameer Vidhate’s art direction are brilliant. Sejal Shah’s cinematography is the outstanding element of Kaali Khuhi. Each frame has been carefully created, with an exceptional eye for detail, shot structuring and composition.
Sanyukta Kaza’s editing is flawless. But that is only to be expected, given that she was also the one in charge of the editing of Tumbbad, a masterpiece of technical brilliance.
Atmospherics, sound design and visual imagery
Less than impactful writing
Simplistic resolution of the haunting
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes, in parts
Will You Recommend It?
Yes, as a one-time watch
‘Kaali Khuhi’ Review by Binged Bureau
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