190611 bhoot
Image Credit: Supplied

Film: Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Asuhtosh Rana, Bhumi Pednekar
Director: Bhanu Pratap Singh
Stars: 2 out of 5

A cracking horror film should have enough scares that startle you and jolt you out of your seats, but Vicky Kaushal’s scream-fest Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship barely scrapes by in that department.

It’s high on eerie atmospherics, but low on genuine scares.

The movie opens with a grieving marine officer Prithvi (Kaushal) struggling to gain closure as a terrible personal tragedy mars his existence.

He was perfectly happy with his vivacious wife (Bhumi Pednekar) and child, but loses his bearings when they die in a freaky drowning accident. He’s deeply troubled and emotionally volatile since their death. It’s safe to say that Prithvi is marooned mentally and emotionally to that fatal accident that claimed his happiness. He even refuses to take drugs to stop the hallucinations because he fears he will lose out on seeing his dead daughter and wife. Speaking to his dead child after an eventful day at work through a make-ship toy telephone is all in a day’s work for him.

But his dreary life gets a boost when a ship washes ashore the Juhu beach in Mumbai, is stuck in the sands and he’s convinced that paranormal beings still live in that giant deserted vessel.

So far, so good. But it takes too long to set the premise and the initial scares that are doled out inside the rusty ship gets old and trite too quick. The frequency with which Prithvi returns to the dilapidated behemoth — despite being greeted by scary screeches, girl-ghosts and unexplained sounds inside the ship — to investigate makes him seem more like an amateur sleuth. His role is the cinematic equivalent of reading one of those popular Nancy Drew novels — where the inexperienced young American detective always saves the day and knows no fear. It might stick with tweens, but won’t fly high with adults.

In one sequence, his friend even reprimands him for being obsessed about going inside the ship by asking ‘do you think you are some kind of a superman’. Our sentiment exactly.

While Kaushal looks dashing as a troubled marine surveyor — whose job is to inspect the vessel — the scares and chills get repetitive.

Unlike Aamir Khan and Rani Mukerji’s brilliant portrayal as grieving parents in the thriller Talaash, Kaushal isn’t very effective in communicating that insurmountable grief. The tears that he sheds during his emotionally-charged scenes in which he remembers his dead family somehow doesn’t have the same heft. You don’t cry with him, but look at him like how you would rubber neck during a road accident. You don’t feel his grief, but Kaushal’s pleasing personality and on-screen presence makes it a lot better.

Pednekar is in brief role and does her bit.

While the scares aren’t necessarily brilliant, the grey palette and the dreary mood goes well with the hero’s troubled mind. The underwater sequences are executed well and the ghosts aren’t unnecessarily gory.

Director Bhanu Pratap Singh has its golden moments, but doesn’t come together as a whole. It’s patchy when it comes to thrills, but it doesn’t bore you to death either.

And my real fear? The movie ends with a teaser to its sequel and that’s what is truly scary. Do you really need to have a second instalment when the first isn’t always spine-chilling.