From abandoned bungalows to a mall— Hindi horror films have certainly come a long way. And while the interestingly titled Darr @ The Mall does make these cosmetic changes, at the heart it gives us the same ol’ cliched moments.
So Amity mall has been witnessing paranormal activities leading to nine deaths including that of the watchman. Enter our hero Jimmy Shergill, the new security chief, who does not believe in the supernatural and is determined to find out what’s really happening in the mall.
Vishnu(Shergill) is completely unfazed by the rumours of the mall being haunted by spirits, but soon enough confesses that there is some “gadbad”. The mall (touted to be the biggest in Asia and yada yada) is seeing a grand re-opening that evening, and Vishnu is doubly careful to see nothing goes amiss. The spooky bits happen when a few young people get trapped in the mall along with Vishnu.
Yes there are a few scary moments, even those leading to characters’ deaths, but there’s nothing we haven’t see in horror flicks before. The same ol’ horror film tricks (you’ll be able to pick quite a few from foreign horror) are disappointing.
People get swept away, you see them flying across the room, getting pulled etc by the supernatural forces. There are mannequins, a children’s tune playing in the background, AC ducts the characters can crawl into, cameras recording footage, and a ‘chilling’ ice-skating rink portion.
The film then shows us the backstory, that’s a pretty tragic one involving the murders of innocent children.
What makes the film watchable are the performances. Jimmy Shergill is superb as the befuddled security- in-charge, who goes from disbelieving, to acknowledging the supernatural aspect in the mall, and finally coming face-to-face with an incident from his past. It’s a challenging role (despite the improbability that he had forgotten all about the incident), and Shergill is dependably superb. His ace, sincere performance proves to be a huge asset to the film.
One of the brighter talents to emerge in the past few years, Nushrat Bharucha is also very good. Seen in films like Pyar Ka Punchnama and Love Sex Aur Dhokha, she showed off her acting prowess in the powerful Akaash Vani where she played a young victim of domestic abuse.
Music plays a huge part in making a horror film that much more exciting, and Shankar Ehsaan-Loy infuse the background score with just the right hint of spooky.
The special effects are pedestrian, and in the end, it is the emotional story that leaves an impression.
As someone who abhors horror films, I could sit through this one without having to close my eyes too often. And it certainly didn’t put me off malls!
Director Pawan Kirpalani, who made his debut with the mildly horrifying Ragini MMS, ups the scare-o-meter in this one. For those fed on a staple diet of hardcore horror like Insidious and The Conjuring, this will look like child’s play (pun unintended). Otherwise, if you’re in the mood for a decent horror flick that has an equal number of spooky and dry moments, you won’t mind this one.
Rating: Two and a half stars