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  RAAT

An above-average 1992 Bollywood horror movie. Itís a mite overly self-conscious and derivative for my tastes, but definitely has its moments.

The Package
     Video store owner turned director Ram Gopal Varma is widely considered one of Indiaís finest moviemakers. Among his best-known films are RANGEELA (1995), SATYA (1998) and COMPANY (2002).
     RAAT (NIGHT), from 1992, was Varmaís third film. Like many Indian, or Bollywood, horror films past and present, it borrows liberally from successful Western fare, particularly THE EVIL DEAD, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, PET SEMATARY and THE EXORCIST. Yet RAAT also broke several long-standing Bollywood conventions: among other things, it doesnít contain any music numbers! Perhaps this is why the film, appearing at the tail end of the Indian horror boom of the 1980s, was a box office flop. Varma later remade RAAT with 2003ís much better received BHOOT.

The Story
     A well-off Indian family is haunted by a malevolent presence that manifests itself via lengthy POV tracking shots around the exterior of the familyís house. The ghostly whatever-it-is appears to favor the teenaged Minnie. She becomes demonically possessed, leading to disquieting dreams and odd behavior.
     Another victim is the family cat, which is run over one day but then turns back up the following morning, seemingly unharmed. Minnieís mother discovers the cause of the haunting upon visiting an old woman who lives next door, who fills her in on the history of her house. Apparently its former resident, a young woman, was murdered years earlier, but her unquiet spirit lives on. That spirit is growing increasingly agitated, causing the possessed Minnie to kill one of her friends by twisting her head completely around.
     It all culminates in the expected exorcism showdown. I wouldnít dream of telling you which side wins out, but do keep in mind that Minnieís little brother is susceptible to the ghostís influence--and thereís still that pesky undead cat to contend withÖ

The Direction
     This filmís EVIL DEAD inspired opening, a lengthy POV tracking shot, sets the tone perfectly: itís undeniably impressive yet also distracting and show-offy. That essentially sums up the film as a whole, which is brilliant from a technical standpoint, having been crafted by an uncommonly gifted director, and contains many bravura sequences.
     Thereís another lengthy tracking shot, this one set in a movie theater (a setting that yielded an equally memorable set piece in the same directorís SATYA), and a wild special effects climax thatís primitive by Hollywood standards but still effective. For an early-nineties Bollywood movie the degree of technical expertise demonstrated by Ram Gopal Varma is remarkable.
     But RAAT suffers from an overly derivative narrative that never plays like much more than the disjointed grab-bag of lifts from other (and better) movies that it is. And I know itís probably pointless to complain about excessive length in a Bollywood film (Indian audiences like their movies lengthy), but a running time of over 130 minutes is simply TOO LONG!
 

Vital Statistics

RAAT (RAATRI)
Varma Creations

Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Producer: Ram Gopal Varma
Screenplay: Ram Gopal Varma, Vinay Shukla
Cinematography: Teja
Editing: Shankar
Cast: Revanthy, Rohini Hattangadi, Om Puri, Anant Nag, Sushant, Jaya Mathur, Master Ateet, Tej Sapru, Nirmalamma, Sunanda

     

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