Stop me if you’ve heard this one, a new horror movie came out and I went to see it, it wasn’t that great, the end. That pretty much sums up this whole movie, sadly. To be fair, I’m going to provide a slight plot synopsis, for posterity, and move on.
The movie is set in India (yay! For those of you who don’t know, I’m Indian, even if I look white). The family, Americans (white, of course), have moved to Bombay (Mumbai?!?) for business and one of their children was killed in an auto accident where the mom could only save one of the two kids. The mother is haunted by the decision she made, even if there was only once choice as the son’s leg was stuck and she couldn’t get it free and the other kid was unconscious. After a failed attempt at suicide, the mother is consoled by the help, an Indian woman from a small village, who tells her about a folk story about being able to say her final goodbyes to her son, and ask for his forgiveness for not saving him.
At first the mom is skeptical, but then she decides to do it. I’ve ridden the trains in India and I can say the movie captured what that feels like, chaos on a moving steel box. The only thing they were missing was the guy asking if anyone wanted tea at 2 AM, waking everyone up. I digress. The mom gets to the village, somehow makes it from the train station (which should have been a lot tougher given she didn’t seem to speak Hindi all that well) and just walks right through the village into the forest. Also, she did this in sweltering heat with only one water bottle, which also seemed a little strange.
The temple she is supposed to go to is dilapidated, yet the door opens almost effortlessly. There are also a bunch of men with ask all over their faces who are almost hidden around the temple, watching her, but getting no closer. The Indian woman had told her that they live around cemeteries, but didn’t provide much of an explanation. The mom follows the ritual and spends the night in the temple, alone, and she didn’t bring any food or sleeping bag. At first nothing happens, then late at night, she hears something and then decides, after being in the temple for hours, to look around (as if she couldn’t have done this sooner, when it was light outside). She stumbles upon the statue of the keeper of the gate of the dead, or something, and gets scared. She goes back upstairs and that’s when she hears all this rustling outside the closed door. The Indian woman had told her not to open the door, but despite this, after a quick conversation with her deceased son, she throws the doors open and there’s nothing there.
At first everything is fine, but soon weird things start to happen in the house once the mom gets back. The Indian woman asks her what she’s done and she denies it, but everyone except the Dad realizes that the dead son is haunting the house. Much like Pet Semetary, the son isn’t quite the same and the keeper of the gateway comes calling (ie, ready to drag the boy back).
I won’t spoil the rest of the movie, but needless to say, it ends about how you might expect, not well. I gave this movie one out of five stars. It isn’t that it was so stultifying terrible, but the potential was so great. As I said before, I’m Indian, and there is a ton of folklore to be found. Much of what was done in the movie was based on those stories. There was a brief snippet where I almost yelled at the movie screen (and possibly disrupted the other six people in the theatre) when the mom throws the door open after hearing someone knock. An old Indian/Muslim wives’ tale has to do with Djinns knocking on doors and needing people to open them so they can enter. The mother did exactly that, letting the demon/ghost/entity in. There is a great deal of promise to be had if a story is told well, and acted well. The mom was played by Sarah Wayne Callies, from The Walking Dead. I can’t fault her, but she was not as invested as I felt a grieving mother would be. The dad, played by Jeremy Sisto was so unbelievably bland and uninspired. Every scene he was in I was unable to concentrate on the context because he was just dialing it in. The Indian help Suchitra Pillai-Malik, and the daughter, Sofia Rosinsky, were the strongest of the cast.
I normally am not this long-winded with reviews, but this movie bothered me on so many levels, not least of which that it painted India as this backward, crazed country. Yes, it still has a ways to go to be a little more modern, but people aren’t killing people in sacrifices to demonic Gods in the middle of a huge city (they’re committing other heinous crimes on buses). Like so many horror movies, the potential was there, but instead there is lazy storytelling, barely passable acting and stereotypes for every type of person out there.