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Month of Horror 2015: World Edition – India: 13B (Yavarum Nalam)

Editor’s Note: These posts originally appeared starting here on the AV Club *stares off wistfully*. They are being reposted for completionist sake as this annual series continued onto the AVCAD and now here. Also, forgive the writing for I was younger and dumber and these were written to appear in comments so don’t include pictures and are far shorter and less thorough than the series is now. They have been preserved as they were.

Month of Horror: World Edition
10/27/2015 – India: 13B (Yavarum Nalam) (2009)
Directed by Vikram Kumar

Despite having the single largest film industry in the world (at least in number of films), India’s international horror presence is very slight. They produce plenty of horror movies unlike many nations with these problems, but none have really gained reputations for you know being very good. It may be attributable to the fact that the frequent style of Indian cinema, long movies with plenty of musical numbers does not lend itself well to horror. It is possible to make a good horror-musical (Happiness of the KatakurisLittle Shop of HorrorsRepo! The Genetic Opera and “Once More With Feeling”) but none of them are known for being particularly frightening) and it is even harder to do lengthy 2+ hour horror films (such as Jaws and The Shining) but good luck doing both. Then again the root of it may be the very love it or hate response to the general style of the majority of Indian cinema with few films (The Lunchbox and the Apu trilogy) that break out of that mold.

13B is certainly not the film to sell me on the concept of Indian horror. The film, a Tamil production filmed in both Tamil and Hindi (while I can’t confirm it I appear to have watched the Hindi version) is everything I have experienced (and heard) in the past about typical Indian cinema. The background music is terrible with the musical sequences if not frequent, are still lousy and ill-fitting tonally with the movie. The cinematography is laughable as whoever shot the film seems incapable of keeping things in frame, misusing the close ups and zooms, and in the words of Roger Ebert “has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why”. The shooting angles seem chosen at random with unnecessary rotations and movements that had me laughing when I wasn’t trying to reorient my head.

The plot is centered around an intentionally(?) awful in-universe soap opera which is just absolutely fantastically badly acted but there is really too little difference between the acting there and in the “real world” (hell the soap might be better shot). Instead of playing for humor the similarity between the world of the soap and the “real world” (like say the infinitely superior Jane the Virgin it is played completely straight and without an ounce of humor. Also, the music for the soap them made me think of the theme song for Check It Out!, with Dr. Steve Brule which just made things even funnier. I shouldn’t even bother discussing the plot since anyone could figure it out in minutes once it starts up (there’s really only two ways it could go) but hey at least the plot didn’t go for the obnoxious twist version, The Shining rip-off version and just played it straightforward. I am grateful for that but there are no other redeeming values in the film and it is not even worth watching as a so bad its good film especially clocking in at over two hours. It feels wrong to judge an entire countries film industry based on one movie and in such a huge country with many distinct film regions, but this just confirmed all my worst fears about an Indian horror movie and I wish someone could point out a good one that actually breaks the mold.

Month of Horror: World Edition
(Mini) Bonus Episode #18 – United Kingdom: Eye of the Devil (1966)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson

For a moderately obscure horror movie there sure are a lot of talented people attached. The film is from the director of such films as The Guns of Navaroneand Cape Fear, starring Deborah Kerr (originally and still in a few long shots Kim Novak), David Niven, Donald Pleasance, and in her first role a rather creepy Sharon Tate, and with uncredited written work done by Dr. Strangeloveand The Cincinnati Kid co-write Terry Southern. Eye of the Devil is not as good as its pedigree would suggest but it has its charms. Everything about it is just well-done with a low key charm and the late era black and white cinematography really suits it. The film does drag in places and at a certain point it starts to feel more like a march to an inevitable conclusion with most of the acting being rather subdued, an interesting and apt feeling choice if not always a satisfying to watch one, but it is still a bit of an underrated little film with a SPOILERS haunting almost The Wicker Man (the good one) type climax. In fact, it’s almost fair to call it an earlier, quieter version of that film.

Up Next: Konstantin Ershov and Georgi Kropachyov’s Viy representing Russia (USSR)

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