Another big ol’ delivery of DVD’s has reached your Favorite Catgirl’s mailbox and so it’s back to India this time for another wacky Hindi horror offering, 2010’s “Kaalo” aka “Kaalo the Witch”.
Our synopsis reads: “Kaalo tells the story of a deadly witch returning from beyond the grave who attacks a bus in the deserts of Rajasthan and hunts down a little girl. Based on a folktale, the story of Kaalo revolves around a desert dwelling witch by the same name who lived in Kulbhata during the 18th century. She was stoned to death and buried by angry villagers for sacrificing young nubile girls to satisfy her greed for immortality. But, somehow, her evil spirit lived on.
A century later villagers spoke of Kaalo’s sightings yet again. They claimed she was even more angry and dangerous than before and that she was back to finish what she had left incomplete. Kulbhata village was vacated overnight by the frightened locals. All roads leading to Kulbhata were sealed by horrifying folkstories of Kaalo killing anyone who dared to enter Kulbhata until a bus carrying eleven passengers on its way to Kuldevi had to pass through the cursed place. One of the passengers on the bus was a twelve-year-old girl named Shona who was traveling alone to spend her vacation at her grandmother’s house in the neighboring village. Shona was clever, witty and cheerful. She soon became the life of the journey. Everyone loved her endearing manners. Especially the reclusive and reticent Sameer, who was traveling with a bag loaded with gun powder to blast a well for his drought plagued village. Unfortunately for them all, raised from her grave accidentally by foolish quarrymen, Kaalo awoke…. thirsty for blood. Shona’s blood…… “
Now that definitely sounds promising…. Evil child eating cannibal witch with big ol’ halberd chases people around the deserts of India. Why wouldn’t Neko want to watch this one? It certainly looks like it might be a whole lot of goofy monster movie fun!! Neko likes monsters…. especially freaky cannibal monsters…. and it’s about time for me to get a heapin’ dose of flesh munchin’ fun, Hindi style. So naturally I’m all over this one.
Think maybe you too could give “Kaalo” a try? Then by all means… “Read On” and find out for sure….
Billed as “India’s First Daytime Horror Film”, “Kaalo” has a look that most definitely separates it from the usual Hindi horror offering. The majority of this one is filmed in an eye blistering canvas of bright sun-washed colors… oranges, yellows and reds of all garish shades and hues… no dark shadowy places for evil to hide here. Nope… in “Kaalo” every scene is an ever present reminder that were in the desert…. the hot, searing, unending desert you only see in old Technicolor movies from the past. It is a different approach than the usual Hindi horror film… but for the most part all the usual elements are present to keep things fairly familiar.
So… just what are those “familiar elements”? Well… we have our hero, Sameer (played by Aditya Srivastava)…. he’s sturdy, honorable, and trustworthy. A bit of a loner…. but you just know, that despite his aloof ways, he’s going to become almost a father figure for our film’s second main character, lil’ Shona (played by Swini Khara). And why not? She’s everything a perfect little Bollywood girl heroine should be…. super cute, smart, independent, and more than able to pierce our rugged hero’s armor of feigned indifference to others with her smile and youthful good cheer.
And boy….. is she going to need an ally. Taking a cue from so many other horror films, “Kaalo” basically uses the old plot idea of taking a small group of strangers… throwing them together on a bus….. and then stranding them in the middle of the desert right in the vicinity of that accursed village just as a group of quarry workers has the bad fortune to accidentally discover the lost burial place of the evil witch herself. (Wow… don’t you just hate when that happens?) A bit peeved about having a guy jackhammer his way into her corpse, she rises up and kills all those workers in suitably gory fashion before somehow catching the scent of little Shona and deciding to get a hold of her no matter what.
Along with Sameer and Shona, we get the usual prerequisite group… the old married couple, the eager young newlyweds on honeymoon, the goofy fashion photographer and his sexy model, the bus driver and his buddy the conductor, and, of course, the four low-life thugs who you just know are gonna make things rough for everybody once things go all bad. They’re all here just to pad out the body count… and you know most of them (if not all of them…) are probably going to die horribly before this one ends. Best not to get too attached to them…… About the only stereotype missing is the wise old holy man who would be able to slap some really good Hindi holy mojo on our evil monster. But don’t worry, Sameer’s traveling with a backpack full of explosives…..
Say what!?! Yep… a big ol’ bag of….. pipe bombs. How he got them, or exactly why he figured to use pipe bombs to dig a well is never clearly explained, but Sameer is certainly packing enough to start a small war. India seems to be a much wilder and woollier place than your Favorite Catgirl would have guessed. So…. anyways, without too much waiting, Kaalo shows up and starts her reign of terror, tunneling around under the ground like the monster worms in “Tremors” or flying about like the critter from “Jeepers Creepers”…. and swinging one mean ol’ poleaxe to boot.
By now, her desire to eat lil’ Shona is pretty clear… but luckily for our plucky lil’ heroine, Sameer has gotten his righteous spirit (as well as his undies) all twisted in a bunch, and stubbornly refuses to consider the possibility of letting that happen. Even if most of the others on the bus would sell her out in an instant if they thought it would save their own miserable skins. Thankfully, the old guy knows it’s already too late for anything that simple…. Apparently once you’ve seen Kaalo she just can’t let you live to tell the tale…. d’oh!! Guess that means they’ll have to band together and fight her off… Too bad she’s virtually unkillable.
Unkillable??… Awww, crap!! Don’t you just hate that? But… although she can only be slowed down by most lethal things, it seems she is vulnerable to her own weapons. So…. that just means their only other option is to run around the desert dodging her deadly unending attacks until they can find some way to escape. Yep… here’s where the bodies start piling up….
So… will our hero save our lil’ heroine and kill the nasty ol’ witch? Yes…. that’s a given, although Neko’s not gonna go into the details and spoil things for you. Will he at least get to blow some stuff up? Well now…. you don’t think a guy gets to tote around a bag of bombs without blowing something to kingdom come before the end credits now do you?
All in all, this one ends up being a pretty simple movie by anyone’s standards. For a Bollywood one, it’s also a pretty short film… running only 81 minutes or so and that was a welcome thing given their usual love of 2½ to 3 hour films. No music either…. at least no musical numbers ala MTV… just a stirring religious theme that pops up every time Sameer is going to do something both terribly heroic as well as downright stupid. Poor Sameer…. he almost takes more damage throughout “Kaalo” than John McClain did in “Die Hard” and that’s saying something.
Still… despite of, or maybe because of, it’s very simplicity, Neko actually liked this one. There’s no deep meaningful stuff going on here. There’s no real shock or horror either… but it does invoke many of the feelings you got from old school monster films like they used to make when at least this lil’ kitten was a wee girl. Chalk this one up to being an easy to understand homage to that school of film-making and you’ll probably like it too. I give it a solid 3 “Meows” out of 5 for doing a stand up job of making me giggle over it’s improbable plot elements and still root for Sameer and lil’ Shona to make it through to the end alive. I’ve certainly seen better horror films… but trust me… I’ve also seen far worse.
The Hindi DVD is letterboxed, NTSC formatted, and Region free with reasonably good English subtitles… but that’s about it. Still, running for about 10-15$ US most places, that ain’t too bad either. Unless super corny monster fests are your thing though, you might not lose sleep if you miss out on it, but even so, it’s not half bad either if goofy Hindi horror is something you just can’t do without. (Like a certain silly Catgirl you might know…. Hehehehe!!)
Just to convince you, here’s the Trailer….. Enjoy!!