Ghost Stories (2020)
ghost stories | zoya akhtar | dibakar banerjee | karan jones | anurag kashyap | isha luthra | ensia mirza | avinash sampath | janhvi kapoor | surekha sikri | amruta subhash | anthology | monster | creature | ghost | haunted | haunting | curse | india | thriller | sagar arya
Film: Ghost Stories
Directors: Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap
Writers: Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Isha Luthra, Ensia Mirza and Avinash Sampath
Starring: Janhvi Kapoor, Surekha Sikri and Amruta Subhash
This is a movie that I feel like I heard about on a podcast the year it came out or it could have been from last year. I didn’t hear a lot about this one outside of that. How I decided to watch this as one of our directors is a woman so this would fit into my Women’s Appreciation episode on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie podcast for February. The synopsis is quite generic with an Indian anthology horror film that is consisting of four short film segments.
Before I get into the shorts themselves, I want to give a bit of background here. This is an anthology that doesn’t have a connecting story. We get an animated opening credits scene that alludes to the stories we are getting in this. All take place in India and made with filmmakers from there would be another connecting aspect. It should be pointed out, this is two and half hours, allowing each short to develop a bit more.
The first story here is from Zoya Akhtar. They wrote the story and screenplay along with Ensia Mirza with Vijay Maurya helping with the dialogue. For this one, we start with Sameera (Janhvi Kapoor) on the phone with Guddu (Vijay Varma). He was supposed to pick her up but didn’t. She is a home health aide that goes to the home of Mrs. Malik (Surekha Sikri). Her son was supposed to be taking care of her until Sameera arrived. Mrs. Malik has many ailments including dementia and diabetes. Sameera isn’t doing a great job at paying attention, as her personal life is more important. At night, Sameera is spooked by weird sounds. It seems like something is being drug down the hallway. Not everything is as it seems as Sameera looks for the truth about what happened in this apartment.
Since none of these are connected, I’ll break down this segment here. We get a story that is good with atmosphere but lacking punch at the end. I like Kapoor as Sameera. She is so worried about her life that she is neglecting her patient. Sikri was solid as this old woman that we can’t fully trust. She seems to know things she shouldn’t. She also relays good advice to Sameera. Something I will say about this short and all of them, the cinematography is good and the soundtrack is atmospheric. I will give credit to the feel of this short, but I think for what we get is lacking the end.
The second short is done by Anurag Kashyap. Isha Luthra wrote the story, screenplay and the dialogue. We start this off with a husband, Sagar Arya, taking a picture with a polaroid camera of his wife. She has a baby in her arms. His wife is Neha (Sobhita Dhulipala). We see her picking up her nephew, played by Zachary Braz, as he gets dropped off from school. They spend the day together until his father, Pavail Gulati, gets home.
Neha and her husband are trying to have a baby. Her nephew is nervous about this as he doesn’t want to lose the love of his aunt. He knows things will change is she has a baby. There could be a curse on Neha, from an incident in her childhood. It also seems like her nephew might have some power with his drawings as well.
For this short film, it is rivaling as one of my favorites to be honest. We are getting an interesting allegory here. There is a nest of crows in the ceiling of the attic. Neha is giving food and making sure nothing bothers it. This correlates to her having a nursery when she becomes pregnant. I like the idea of her nesting like the birds. The kid in this one is also good with his fear of losing this love. He is a misguided monster to be honest. I thought Dhulipala and Braz play well off each other.
There is a bit that is left out of the story here though. This is a shame for how long they all run to not explain at least a bit more. We never know why the husband hates the nephew or the uncle. We get this odd scene with Neha late in the short. I get this isn’t real, that she is having a breakdown. What I have another issue with though is a picture that is found in the nursery. Did they lose their first baby? Or is this movie not being told linear? We get some nightmare sequences, which I’m not the biggest fan of at times, but I thought they worked here. This one is also shot in black and white, which is an interesting choice. The atmosphere once again was good in this one.
Our third segment was written by Dibakar Banerjee. A visitor, Sukant Goel, gets dropped off a few kilometers away from Smalltown. He is called there for work. He heads that way but falls. We then see him continue where he meets a little boy, Aditya Shetty. He is told that they need to be quiet. The visitor also needs to run when he’s told if he wants to survive. The boy has been living with a little girl, Eva Ameet Pardeshi, and they believe something has happened to the adults in the village. The children believe they have become monsters that eat the flesh of those that are still normal. Our visitor doesn’t believe at first, but soon realizes they might be right.
This is another one that I think we are getting an interesting idea. Originally, I thought that is going to be zombies. We are getting a bit of that, but they have monster teeth and we see what prolonged eating of flesh does. I thought the effects of the creatures were good. There is even allegory here. There is Bigtown that tells Smalltown what to do. There is jealousy that comes with this and how bigger cities pray on the ones that are less fortune. We run into another problem here that despite the length, I had questions as to how it ends and what the implications are there. The acting though was good from Goel. The kids, Shetty and Pardeshi, were fine. The performances of those that have changed was good. This is tied with being my favorite, but much like the earlier one, I have my gripes.
Then for our last story, it is written by Avinash Sampath and Niranjan Iyengar helping with the dialogue. This story is telling of an arranged marriage between Ira (Mrunal Thakur) and Dhruv (Avinash Tiwary). The two of them hit it off and agree to marry. The problem is that Dhruv talks to his granny every night. His granny has been dead for a few years. His psychosis runs so deep that it makes Ira question if what he believes might be true.
Now I see that some people love this segment the most. I think once again we are getting an interesting idea, but it might be my least favorite. It does have its good parts though. Dhruv believes so much in that his granny is still alive, we believe him. This story has a dark turn as Ira learns more about what happened to the grandmother. It goes farther than that when she tries to put her foot down. I think that Thakur and Tiwary are good as our leads. All their family works. This one is less atmospheric to me. What I will give this one is that it has the most definitive ending, so it is probably the best made in my opinion. It fits in the EC comic vibe as well for just punishments, to an extent.
So then in conclusion here, I think that we get some good shorts here. They are all well made. The acting was good across the board. Cinematography is good in all of them. We get some interesting shots and for the most part, it is quite atmospheric. I’ll give credit to the soundtrack as well for that. My problem though is that with the length of the shorts, there are some questions with many of the stories that I have which is a bit of an issue. Regardless of that feeling, I still think this was a solid foreign anthology film. The average of each short has this as over average for me. It is lacking a bit for me to take this higher.
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10