This little shocker conceived, written and directed by the brilliant A.G. Baby is several cuts above the kind of fare one has become accustomed to in the Post Ramsay's era of the 90's, and beyond. Ever since the once prolific Ramsay production line decided to devote its energy to the mini screen the horror genre in Bollywood has lurched from bad to worse in the hands of some truly dire smut merchants; namely K.I. Shaikh, Jitendra Chawda, Kishan Shah, R. Mittal, Harinam Singh and company. -- Stop right there, you bad boys! If it weren't for publishing bigwig Ram Gopal Verma's well intentioned if somewhat misguided attempts sandhirflora(1991) and Raat(1992), the horror genre might have died out altogether - however real credit for keeping the genre from fading away completely must go to a small band of producer/directors from the south who have managed to churn out some fairly striking and even memorable content over the years. The strongest horror films that we have come across from the post Ramsay's era have all hailed from the South of the country and are clear evidence that not only is the genre alive and well in these parts but also aspiring to a fair amount of box office appeal. House No.13 is one of these South Indian productions that manage to put the northern horror films to considerable shame. This film, though clearly influenced by horror films from the West, still succeeds in retaining its own direct style, and, much to its credit, none of the death scenes are direct rip-offs of scenes from western counterparts. Numerous shock scenes are effective and totally original and amazingly there isn't a ski mask, lady in a white sari with both eyes bleeding, or pair of plastic pitchforks in sight, nor does one get to enjoy the BBC's trusty Death and Horror Sound Effects tape as one does in 90% of Bollywood horror films, in particular, the sounds of those spooky beating heart sounds !
This, like every other Bollywood horror movie begins on the obligatory dark and stormy night lashing down ominous hosepipes of rain. A new family arrives at an old creaking Haveli, as they have been able to buy it at a snip on the market for reasons they hitherto failed to comprehend.. With this highly promising shock start House No.13 kicks into high gear. Soon, the brood, headed by the venerable and seasoned veteran horror thespian Anil Dhawan arrive at their new residence quite oblivious of its grisly past but there excitement soon turns to horror as things start going terribly wrong. The old wheezing grandfather complains that the mirror in his room is up to some tricks clouding over with smoke, but his claims are met with disbelief. Later that night the bad fake Mona Lisa painting above his bed starts developing a seriously bad skin rash and then, in one of the films most chilling and effective scenes, the painted woman's hair starts to grow - the tresses emerging like nightmarish ropes of death twirling around the old man, snaring him in a ghastly death trap. Later on in the proceedings a child has a terrifying encounter with a puppet resembling Lady Elaine Fairchild and is revealed to contain within it's interior, plasma, miniature organs (pancreas, gall blatter, &c.), and a complete, fully working central nervous system. Needless to say, the doll ends up in a meat grinder.
Director Baby pulls out all the stops and handles the shock scenes exceptionally well clearly indicating a strong flair for the genre. Fortunately the film isn't destroyed by the presence of a comedian sidekick, which in itself is a major blessing no Jagdeep, no Narendranath, Snackpipe or Asrani!. However the half dozen or so totally forgettable songs featuring a pansy as the lead hero slow things down to a yawn on one or two occasions but to be fair, Baby keeps things moving along fairly rapidly despite the musical interludes, and there is enough horror interspersed through the movie to keep genre fans interested.
Though the films overall theme of a wronged woman returning from afterlife to wreak revenge is a tad overdone, the directors treatment of the subject has enough freshness and originality to keep the horror fan from dozing off entirely, and though the songs are irritating, as is the romantic subplot, the film is clearly one of the better Bollywood horror efforts over the last decade or so and suggests that there is might yet be life after the Ramsays. This film along with Chudail and Maa ki Shakti demonstrate that there may still be hope for horror in Bollywood and with the news of the Ramsay brothers slated to release their comeback venture "Ek: The Fear" the future doesn't look entirely bleak for Bollywood horror despite the distinctly dodgy efforts of K.I. Shaikh and Jitendra Chawda and friends, all of whom I hereby place under citizen' s arrest! (Just kidding around, you guys ! Get out of here, please !)
if I have circumvented any individual from watching this One Star winner then my job here is done.
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