The young couple Krish and Lakshmi live in an idyllic little neighborhood in a quiet village. They are invited to a welcome party in the neighboring house, the house next door (yes, literally), which is an old house previously owned by a Chinese family. The party turns into a dramatic event when the new family’s young daughter goes outside and, like in a trance, falls into the giant well in the garden. Krish, who is also a doctor, jumps down and saves her, but after this event the girl is not quite the same in the days after. The word “possessed” is not far away, and she is sent to a psychologist who is blaming her for her interest in heavy metal music (as if we were back in the 80s), reading horror litterature and watching horror movies. He is determined that she is easily influenced by horror, and mixed together with the recent move, he believes that therein lies all her problems. Still, her problems grow worse and in the end the family see no other option than calling for a priest and have a good old-fashioned exorcism.
Bollywood is a whole new territory for me, and I wasn’t really sure what I would expect from this two-hour long ghost / possession movie, except a musical number every 10 minutes. Bollywood is known to love adding some music tracks, but in this movie we only get a small cheer- and colorful montage of the young couple, with a pop song that shows us the story of how he and she met, married etc. For a person like me who is not used to this kind of thing in horror movies, I immediately felt that it set a strange contrast in a movie that also captures inspirations from The Conjuring and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, overflowing with a ton of other horror and pop culture references where even a certain Dean Winchester would had lost the overview. Also, Krish works as a surgeon at a hospital called Silent Hill Hospital… yes, seriously. Silent Hill Hospital. Maybe all this was done in order to appeal as much as possible to an international audience, especially in the United States, but this is just overkill. Nor can I avoid mentioning that the psychologist is similar to Roger Ebert, which must be a crazy coincidence.
With its two hours running time, The House Next Door never gets scary, and the frequent broken English mixed into their sentences (Hinglish) makes several moments just involuntarily comical (at least for people like me who isn’t used to this sort of thing). Nevertheless, the film has its strong elements, like beautiful cinematography with a lot of atmosphere, and with its fast pacing and colorful characters, I certainly had a fun time watching it. So if you’ve never seen a Bollywood horrorfilm before, then I can assure you that this will be a compelety new, fresh, unique and somewhat bizarre experience.
Director: Milind Rau
Country & year: India, 2017
Actors: Prakash Belawadi, Khushi Hajare, Andrea Jeremiah, Atul Kulkarni, Avinash Raghudevan