Another new week…. and another new Review is upon us… Oooohhh… and it seems the dreaded “Curse of the Shaky Cam Horror Movies” is sticking with this wee Catgirl like evil dryer lint to my favorite sweater as we are off to India this time out for their latest addition to the recent deluge of such efforts to hit DVD release, “Ragini MMS”.
Our synopsis reads: “Ragini (Kainaz Motivala) and her boyfriend, Uday (Raj Kumar Yadav) plan a naughty weekend rendezvous to have sex for the first time at a friends desolate bungalow in the midst of a forest outside Mumbai. Of course, Uday also has some other devious plans of his own: the entire house has been rigged with cameras so he can make an amateur sex tape of his tryst with Ragini and sell it off to kick start an “acting career”.
However that turns out to be the very least of their problems as things do not go as planned, and the cameras that were meant to capture tender illicit love-making become witness to something that is beyond the realm of human understanding… something metaphysical… and they find themselves trapped under the spell of an angry vile spirit who plans to keep them in this house forever, turning their “sexcapade” into a living nightmare.”
Hmmmm? Am I ready to see a “shaky cam horror”, Bollywood style? If anything…. it’ll certainly put a different spin on the idea once it takes a trip through the ol’ “cultural filter” to become something for the mainstream Hindi movie audience to enjoy. Both explicit sex and gore aren’t really all that prevalent in Indian film so I figure this ought to be pretty tame by the standards of movies your Favorite Catgirl usually watches, but who knows? Maybe the Indians will pull out all the stops and go crazy with this one….
Wanna know all about it? Well just tiptoe along with me and we’ll take a lil’ peek together then… 😉
When this one crept into the range of my “Catgirl Movie Radar” (It’s just like Peter Parker’s “Spider Sense” but only works to find goofy foreign horror movies not evil dooers… Honest!… Hehehehe!!), the first thing that caught my eye was the idea of yet another of these “found footage” films lurching zombie-like at yours truly from far flung depths of the Internet. It’s simply amazing just how many of these things have gotten made lately…. and I’m only catching the odd foreign examples, not the avalanche of domestic versions… so it’s even more astonishing to me the appeal of this particular horror genre. I’ve a feeling this wee Catgirl…. and you as well Gentle Visitor… will probably have to sit through a few more in the next month or so…. trust me on that.
Anyway… As our film gets underway, Uday (played by Raj Kumar Yadav) shows up at the little apartment Ragini (played by Kainaz Motivala) shares with her friend Priya, camcorder in hand, to wake her at the crack of dawn to get on their way to the little “love nest” he’s arranged for them out of town. It’s right about here that yours truly started to get annoyed….
Yep… our boy Uday…. he’s pushy, annoying, and casually domineering in that way that’s supposed to be all “manly and macho” in Hindi films. Grrrrr!! If he tried any of that #&*@!! with this wee Catgirl I can tell you I’d be soooo darn tempted to smack him three kinds of silly and set him straight but good. Sigh…. but poor Ragini isn’t me…. and she’s so infatuated with this misogynistic creep that you just know she’s going to put up with his crap throughout most of the film. Auuughhh!!
Breathe, Miyuki… just breathe…. If there’s a “Movie Fairy” who loves you, then this guy will get his just deserts right around the climax…. It’s just that movies like this that remind me just how “American” and “Western” a woman I really am. I know that different people, different cultures, all have their own ways and ideas. I really do… and I do actually respect that. But…. some things just always seem to rub me the wrong way. The casual way women are treated almost as “possessions”…. or worse, as victims who somehow deserve their suffering…. by many cultures in their popular entertainment, always makes me so crazy. Even worse… is the way the women just accept this shabby treatment… agreeing that they are somehow worth less than the men around them. I’ll never like that… no matter how many times I see it in a film. But enough of my ranting….
So…. arriving at the lonely farmhouse, we soon get to see Uday for the nasty bastard he really is. You see, although Ragini thinks this whole trip is a romantic getaway for them to share their first intimate coupling, in reality Uday has arranged a far more selfish and voyeuristic plot. The house has been rigged with hidden cameras, scattered throughout the rooms, all with the intention of capturing Ragini’s virginal experience on film for his buddy to sell on the Internet. Grrrr!!! Have I mentioned yet how much your Favorite Catgirl just hates this guy?
These cameras…. along with Uday’s camcorder… form the basis for the footage comprising our story. It’s actually not a bad idea either, from a plot standpoint. The footage is better than the usual “shaky cam”, in as much as the house cameras are fixed in place, making for much easier to watch stuff instead of having it all shot by an unsteady hand camera. There is some of that stuff, of course, and even some of the “green night vision” camera shots…. but hey, I’m beginning to think you can’t have one of these movies without a bit of that on hand.
But Neko? What exactly does happen to our heroine? Does she… you know…. really “do it” on camera before the ghost shows up to spoil things? Well now… this is a Hindi film… and while I’m certain the action is considered a bit risqué by Indian standards (They actually kiss each other…. a whole lot!!! A really big deal in India, I’m given to understand… just ask Richard Gere… ;)) but by Western standards is all very tame. There’s no nudity at all… and before anything approaching sex happens our lovers are interrupted by Ragini’s girlfriend Priya and her guy dropping by unexpectedly to spoil the mood. Here we get to hear the story about the ghost…. Ghost?!? OK, now were talking…. Yeah, seems the bungalow was once the home of a woman, accused of practicing Witchcraft and of killing her children before being killed by a mob of angry locals. It’s this angry spirit which has been awakened by the illicit shenanigans going on and who now starts to seek her vengeance upon the intruders in her home.
Priya, it turns out, has shown up mostly to annoy Ragini and throw a monkey wrench in her secret tryst with Uday. She’s not around for very long, but I really came to dislike her almost as much as slimy Uday. She tries to convince our lil’ group to party themselves stupid… and when that fails, tries to have her own little sexy time with her drunken boyfriend… just to keep coming up with reasons to hang around and mess things up. Ragini, Ragini…. you poor girl…. why, oh why, do you have such terrible taste in friends and lovers? We never find out… mostly because the ghost immediately starts messing with Vikram, Priya’s boyfriend, enough to piss him off and get him convinced Uday is screwing around to get them to leave. It works… they soon leave and our two lovers are alone again… or are they?
Here our film decides to get goofy. While playing about in the bedroom, Uday wants to chain Ragini up to the bed with a pair of those stupid pink fur lined handcuffs they sell for bondage play. Yep… no kidding… and foolish little Ragini actually lets the idiot do it. Wouldn’t this be a great time for the ghost to strike? Oh yeah…..
The ghost of the witch shows up… first scaring the crap out of Uday by yanking his hair while he was trying to get sexy, and then chasing him around the house while he’s looking for the keys to the handcuffs so he can let Ragini loose. Huh? What? You mean he actually lost the key to the cuffs? Yep…. what a tool. There’s the requisite bit where the ghost shakes the furniture… throws Uday around the room and, yes… exposes the hidden cameras for Ragini so she finally realizes what a slimy bastard her “boyfriend” really is. Not that it’s much help in getting her free so they can make an escape….. Luckily for us watching they don’t waste a lot of time with silly Ragini wailing about Uday’s betrayal before the ghost simply kills him. How? By doing the good ol’ possession thing so he can skewer himself in the neck with a child toy rattle. Before he dies, though, the witch speaks through him and tells Ragini the four things that seem to sum up the witch’s entire Grudge. “I am not a witch…. I did not kill my children… This is my home…. I will never leave….” Yep…. we got that down pat.
Ok… at this point our heroine is chained to a big heavy bed. Does she escape? Yes, yes…. but not for twenty boring minutes or so…. Gosh…. Carolyn and I were so annoyed by her seemingly endless whining and crying that we actually started to lose patience with her. I think the film wouldn’t have suffered at all if this had been a briefer plot element and if she had shown a bit more spunk about trying to escape. The handcuffs for instance, had nearly a foot of chain between them, and even if she wasn’t strong enough to break the wooden bar she was chained to, she could certainly have used that slack to saw away at it and free herself. It wouldn’t have been easy on the arms, but it would have certainly been possible to accomplish in an hour or so. Instead, after a full night and day, she frees herself by shattering a bottle, cutting her wrist and slipping free by lubricating the cuffs with her blood. Gruesome yes…. practical no.
Loose in the house, she searches through the darkness for an exit… just as some hapless doofuss and his friend wander by and hearing her voice decide to investigate. Huh? Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute…. Our bungalow is located smack dab in the middle of a huge plantation…. waaaaay…. waaaay back from the main road…. behind a locked gate and at the end of a long private drive…. and somebody just happens to wander by…. while carrying their own camcorder? In the middle of the night? Yeah…. right. Stupidest plot idea ever….. Doesn’t matter though, they both die pretty quickly.
Ragini manages to slip out of the house… only to find these two dead idiots as well as the bodies of Priya and Vikram who it turns out never managed to get farther than their car before getting killed by our angry ghost. There’s some frantic running through the plantation using the camera’s night vision to see…. (Yep, just knew there would be some “shaky cam” in here somewheres, Hehehehe) before the ghost seizes bloody, exhausted, and frightened Ragini and returns her to the house for some torture and a little ghostly fun running her body up and down walls all creepy and evil like for the hidden cameras. It tells her those four things again…“I am not a witch…. I did not kill my children… This is my home…. I will never leave….” before adding one last chilling thing…. “And you will never leave either…”. Then the footage comes to an end…
We do get a final bit of captioning to wrap it all up, as it’s revealed that a local boy finds Ragini unconscious and near death a few days later… and even after 10 months of institutionalization she is never the same. Of course, even with all the footage found by police, somehow the events of the film remain unexplained. Ummmm… yeah… Roll those credits!!
So what’s the verdict? Well, as Hindi films go, this one wasn’t too darn bad taken as a whole. It comes in at just 88 minute or so, without the odd “music video” interludes that sometimes plague Hindi film…. and that’s never a bad thing. It’s done with a small budget, and tiny cast of somewhat unknown actors, but surprisingly manages to do quite a bit with what it has. Silly “sexploitative” plot aside, it mostly works in the manner it’s intended. While not as shocking or gruesome as the films that it mimics, it’s probably very effective with it’s targeted Hindi audience. This wee lady still bristles a bit when I think about certain plot elements of it, but even those things that annoyed me were actually minor in retrospect. I’m probably just overly sensitive to those nasty story bits…. All in all, effective use of it’s “multi-camera” notion combined with an effective, claustrophobic setting have me lean towards giving it 3 “Meows” out of 5 but only with certain warnings about taking the story with a grain of salt if almost casually mean-spirited disrespect of women is something you dislike as much as I…. it was almost enough to push it to 2 “Meows” but I’m trying to be objective, so I’ll err on the side of cutting this one some slack. The DVD itself is as excellent as Hindi films usually are, being presented in anamorphic wide-screen letterboxed NTSC All Region format. The subtitles? Accurate and excellent as well, all for about 6-10$ US if you can find a copy.
Still waffling over whether or not to give it a try? How about taking a peek at the Trailer then…..