An above-average 1992 Bollywood horror movie. It’s a mite overly
self-conscious and derivative for my tastes, but definitely has its
Video store owner turned director Ram Gopal Varma is
widely considered one of India’s finest moviemakers. Among his
best-known films are RANGEELA (1995), SATYA (1998) and COMPANY (2002).
RAAT (NIGHT), from 1992, was Varma’s 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
doesn’t 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 2003’s much better
A well-off Indian family is haunted by a malevolent
presence that manifests itself via lengthy POV tracking shots around the
exterior of the family’s 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.
Minnie’s 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
wouldn’t dream of telling you which side wins out, but do keep in mind
that Minnie’s little brother is susceptible to the ghost’s
influence--and there’s still that pesky undead cat to contend with…
This film’s EVIL DEAD inspired opening, a lengthy POV
tracking shot, sets the tone perfectly: it’s 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
There’s another lengthy tracking shot, this one set in
a movie theater (a setting that yielded an equally memorable set piece
in the same director’s SATYA), and a wild special effects climax that’s
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 it’s 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!
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Producer: Ram Gopal Varma
Screenplay: Ram Gopal Varma, Vinay Shukla
Cast: Revanthy, Rohini Hattangadi, Om Puri, Anant Nag, Sushant, Jaya
Mathur, Master Ateet, Tej Sapru, Nirmalamma, Sunanda