Another year rolls around and so does another Review. First up for 2017 is a peek at a minor little Hindi horror film I recently found, 2016’s Bollywood tale of erotic witchcraft and horror, “Chudail Story”. Hehehe…. a creepy witch up to no good. Sounds like my sort of story. 😉
Our synopsis goes like this: “Five friends, namely, Chandu, Goldie, Robby, Riya and Devika set out to take a break from their life and decide to go on an adventurous trip together. But before they reach their destination, their car breaks down in a remote rural area and in a bid to seek help, they take shelter in the bungalow owned by Shashi. While the mesmerizing beauty of this pretty lady attracts the men’s attention, there is an eeriness of sorts behind the mysterious Shashi. Rumors claim her bungalow is the lair of a cannibal witch who lures men to their deaths… can the lovely Shashi truly be this witch? But before the gang of five set out to uncover the secrets of this bungalow, some unforeseen incidents lead them into a trap and then escape isn’t an option for them anymore.”
Doesn’t sound like we’ll stray too far from some pretty standard horror movie tropes this time out, but hey, this wee lady is never scared away by a tried and true old school plot. Still… this one didn’t get a very positive review back in its country of origin, so it’s with a measure of caution that I approached it. (Who am I kidding? An Indian horror movie a with sexy cannibal witch hiding away in a haunted house? Of course I’m gonna watch it… Neko’s just such a lil’ dweeb!! ;))
This is another of those movies that seems darned determined not to make its way to DVD… with or without English subtitles… so I was forced to catch it as a streaming film online. That meant that I watched it alone… well, just me and Ting-ting… one afternoon while Carolyn was at work. I tend to do that with streaming films rather than wait for my sweetie, especially with those I’m expecting to be … shall we say… less than stellar movie watchin’ experiences. So with a big ol’ styrofoam box of take-out fried wontons and a wine cooler, lil’ Ting-ting and I curled up on the couch once I got my wi-fi link to the TV sorted for our afternoon horror movie fix.
It gets off to a creepy start promisingly enough as we see two sketchy guys drive into this rural town somewhere waaaay out in the boondocks of India looking for some “action”… if you catch this Catgirl’s drift. As one of them gets out to stretch his legs he catches sight of a sexy sari clad village girl with a lantern giving them her best sultry “come hither” look. Ummmm? Wait a minute here… That’s pretty darn suspicious, right? Yep. But worry not… our horny guys fall for that trap hook, line and sinker, and before you know it she’s lured one of them off into the night to get his lifeforce sucked clean away. Quick… slide smoothly into our first singing/dancing montage as our sexy siren proceeds to gorge herself on a half-dozen other idiots while doing some pretty slinky dance moves under the light of the full moon. Cue the title sequence! (Right about here I was starting to get the idea my sweetie might not mind watching this one afterall… 😉 )
We jump to a sultry summer day and a car broken down by the side of the road where two girls Riya (played by Menka Lalwani) and Devika (played by Nidhi Nautiyal) wait for the guys they are travelling with to get back with water for their radiator. Yep… a group of 20-somethings all lost in the woods… Broken down car… no cell reception… they might as well all have big ol’ hand written signs labeled “Kill Me!!” stuck to their backs, right?
Well we get a pretty quick overview of things as we pop back and forth between the girls waiting at the car and the guys schlepping around down the road a piece. Chandu (played by Akash Rathore), Goldie (played by Sorab Rajpurohit), Robby (played by Amal Sherawat) are your typical male roles for a story like this. Chandu is the “playboy”, supposedly dating Devika but proudly boasting of conquests to his “bros”. Naturally he’s the doofus who’ll get eaten by the witch first… Then there’s the “fifth wheel” of the group, Goldie. Hopelessly clueless when it comes to women, you just know he’ll go second, once things get sticky… Last but not least, Robby, Riya’s fiancé and the guy who will ultimately end up being the witch’s “boy-toy” if everything moves along as expected. No surprises so far.
And that’s pretty much how things go too. They decide to abandon the car and seek help down the road. We get our prerequisite meeting with a crazy old coot along the way who warns them about the bungalow on the road ahead, haunted by the witch that devours the lives of all the men stupid enough to fall into her clutches. There’s some hint he might have been one of those unlucky fools, drained of his youth and left to wander insane and alone here in the wilderness. Oh yeah… that’s a given.
They find the house alright. Looking surprisingly nice and modern… and well… fairly “unscarey” for sure. Inside is lovely widow Shashi (played by Preeti Soni)… our weird “lady of the evening”. Witch? Oh, yeah… no freaking doubt.
From this point forward, it’s merely a matter of time before Shashi manages to split our lil’ group apart, using her bewitching charms to set the group against each other. As expected, Chandu goes first… and then we find that she can control the spirits of her victims and set them after the living to do her bidding.
Oh… and did I mention? She uses some sort of witchy curse to keep everybody trapped within the bungalow too. We do get a visit from a helpful mechanic, summoned to repair the car, but he gets killed by a steel rod falling off the roof to pin him like a bug to the front lawn… in a scene stolen right out of “The Omen”. Hehehehe…. Bollywood loves “borrowing” stuff like that… along with elements of one or two other horror movies. (“The Shining” springs to mind…)
So yeah… we’re not getting a particularly original or novel film here. But, in its defense, it’s a very well filmed story, with some reasonable acting (Even given the somewhat goofy motivations and dialog) and our villain Shashi certainly taps into her inner succubus for the naughty sexy bits. Oh… and all done in right around an hour and a half too… nice given the usual tendency for Hindi films to pad out the run time unnecessarily.
So how did it grab me? Well… it’s a kind of “paint-by-numbers” story. You know all the secrets from the start, there are no real surprises, and I can’t say I worked out much sympathy for our cast of victims, who you know are gonna die by the movie’s end. Still, I lean towards being a bit more generous in my assessment than I expected. The story was not a total train wreck, and the general kernel of an idea was good, although knowing a bit more about our witch and her motivations might have been nice. I’d give “Chudail Story” a reasonable 3 “Meows” out of 5, even if just barely. I’ve seen one or two Hindi films that were bigger budgeted and made a whole lot less sense than this, so that’s at least something. Heck… if a Hindi DVD for it ever pops up at their usually thrifty price point, I’d probably even grab a copy for the collection… Should you? Probably not, but if you found a chance to give it a watch, I wouldn’t exactly pass on it either. Especially if trashy foreign horror movies are also your thing too. 🙂
Trailer? Pssshht!! Naturally… complete with all the “witchy” goodness intact for your viewing pleasure. 😉