I love the horror genre and have always thought that they can be largely classified into 3 categories – good, bad, okay. And I like seeing all three kinds. But Ghost Stories needs a new category – painstakingly irritating.
The Netflix description of the film says “The directors of emmy-nominated ‘Lust Stories’ reunite for this quartet of Thrillers”. The Emmy bit was news to me. But after watching the entire film, I thought the quartet could probably get nominated for Razzie awards next.
The first short directed by Zoya Akhtar is visually very good the first few seconds. Even otherwise, the cinematography is well done. But story-wise, there’s not a lot happening. You have a nurse stuck in a huge house with a bedridden old patient. With an unnecessary asshole of a boyfriend on the sides. While Zoya manages to create a sense of dread initially, after the point as a viewer, you just get dragged down by the pace. Nothing happens. It’s only at the end that the maker manages to give you an interesting end. But all the waiting to get to the climax was quiet boring.
As far as acting is concerned, Jhanvi Kapoor was okay. Surekha Sikri as the old crazy lady was ace as always. It’s the drearily slow storytelling that lets them down.
The second short was by Anurag Kashyap and was the worst of the lot. One would think that Karan Johar would suck the most at the horror genre, but no my friends, Kashyap outdid Johar at sucking.
The second story is slower than a tortoise. One would probably bear to see a tortoise moving slowly if it’s cute enough, but not this film. Kashyap’s film has one little kid, who is creepy looking, and not even the scary kind, but the kind that you want to slap the shit out of.
This short film would have worked in the dark ages, but for 2020, it’s arrived decades late. I wad glad it was on Netflix because we could fast-forward most of it and yet miss nothing. It’s about a pregnant woman who is probably schizophrenic and her nephew who is jealous of the potential newcomer. Again, nothing really happens in the first half of this film. Also, the woman lives in a house that has a loft with a dropdown ladder. Copy from Hollywood horror movies much?
Anyway, the pace irritates the fuck out of you. When things do start happening, you are just horrified at the crap that’s unfolding. It’s just some gory stuff that grosses you out and then there are other scenes that make you smirk and think “really, is this what passes as horror these days?”.
Okay, let’s just move on to the third one. Dibakar Banerjee’s short was finally a breath of relief because you didn’t feel the urge to fast forward every 10 seconds. “Something is finally happening in this movie!”, I screamed facing husband, who had walked off to sleep in the middle of the second short film.
I think Dibakar’s film had the most potential. He did a pretty decent job, but only if he was aiming for his short to be a horror comedy. And I am not being sarcastic. The Banerjee short had me giggling a lot with amusement. It could have been a great horror comedy, a genre I really like.
But the pace was a problem again. Although it was a lot faster than the first two. Set in a fictional village, this one has a zombie theme with two kids and a guy who did a fantastic job with the acting. Banerjee creates enough dread and the justifies it with some action. Finally, you get to see some ghosts in Ghost Stories. Also, there are no useless jump scares and idiotic foreboding music.
The big problem with this one was that the writers just got ahead of themselves with an ending that was just out of place. They had a good ending in hand, but they stretched their imagination and fucked it up. I empathize as a writer because horror endings are always a big challenge.
And now, let us talk about the final short – the Karan Johar one, because by this time, my hopes were buried below the ground. Johar’s story was about a family that refused to bury the matriarch of their family, despite here death 20 years ago. Figuratively.
Set in the current times, it starts off with two really rich kids (how can Johar leads not be rich?) meeting for an arranged marriage.
In the very first meet, the parents of the boy say ‘we have to take granny’s permission’ about the match. The girl asks ‘where is granny?’.
“Bitch be dead 20 years back” says someone. (Okay, they didn’t say bitch, but why should only Johar have the rights to exaggerate things?).
Girl blinks in confusion, wondering how can dead granny give them permission? At which the boy says “I will talk to granny, I will talk to granny”. Not once, but twice. That’s supposed to be cue for the girl to run away from this crazy family and find one that doesn’t talk to a dead granny.
But nope, 4 months later, she is marrying the dude, even though she knows the whole granny situation is weird. In fact, while they are getting married in a lavish ceremony, there is the big portrait of granny sitting on a chair right beside them. And on their wedding night, while things get steamy, their door opens and the boy has a ‘goodnight’ talk with his granny. While is bride is still pretty much under him, lost and confused. What the fish? By this time I already want to kill myself. But the fighter that I am, I watch till the end. And the idiot that the girl is, she stays on in the marriage and decides to investigate the whole granny business.
Again, if Johar had tried to push this into the horror comedy genre with some intelligent writing, it could have been a fun watch. Instead he tries hard to make it spooky and at the same time you have sex jokes slipped in. The stale script suffers from an existential crisis. By this time, the viewer also begins to suffer from an existential crisis and starts to question his/her life choices. The End.