Subhash K Jha reviews the Karan Johar film Bhoot Part One The Haunted Ship.

Review of Bhoot Part One The Haunted Ship: These Bhoots are made for walking

Starring Vicky Kaushal, Ashutosh Rana, Meher Vij

Directed by Bhanu Pratap Singh

Rating: * ½ (one and a half stars)

Karan Johar is into horror now. A lot of people thought Kalank was his first horror film (I didn’t, I liked it for what it was,  a failed romance). But his initiation into the arena of spook began with Ghost Stories last month. Now in his first full-fledged fear-fest, Karan Johar is fully into the think of things on a haunted ship which, like Karan’s Kalank, docks into Mumbai un-navigated.

Instead of drowning the ship in the ocean (maybe tie the monster contraption to a few boulders) the film’s  naval hero Prithvi played by the  up and coming Vicky Kaushal , drowns his dread of the dead in drinks. No wonder he starts seeing evil spirits at home and on the ship. If you spend too much time with memories you become  a ghost.

Best friend Riaz (tokenism at its most glaring) clutches Prithvi and sobs, “Tu kitna bhi paagal ho jayega main tumhara saath nahin chodunga.”  Riaz’s wife looks seriously worried. Is her husband seeing things too?

We are certainly not seeing, Prithvi is, namely a very dangerous evil spirit stalking the deserted ship like the Ranaut sisters on  social media. Evil has many designs and it’s hard to predict where  it will come hit you from. Ask Hrithik Roshan.

In the meanwhile Vicky Kaushal foolishly keeps going back to the ship with its  monstrously creaky and ferociously freaky interiors. Full marks to the art designer whose eye for detail is decidedly  dishy. The cinematography by Pushkar Singh, a  synthesis of sepia scares and brightly lit ruins, is also top-notch. Wish the same could be said about the direction which skirts  sloppiness. As for the “dangerous” spirit on  the ship, she is no more dangerous than your wife watching Game Of Thrones in bed  while you snore.

And therein lies the problem  This is a film as harmless as a game of bingo that your mom organized in the backyard, where tempers were frayed. But really, who was afraid? The scares in Bhoot come exactly four times  , and each time they are generated  with heightened sound and a creature rushing out at us like a snarling  goalkeeper at a football game who just realized the whole team from the opposite end is showing him the finger.

That’s what Bhoot, etc does to us. It mocks at the horror genre by resorting to the most trite tropes and standard shock tactics of  the genre and  it mocks our definition of  bereavement by converting it into a currency for corny scares. The first-half does have a few touching moments showing  Kaushal’s Prithvi grieving for his wife and daughter who died in a raft accident. But the second half moves from the raft to a scare-inducing craft on a ship that looks almost as deserted as the theatre where I saw Karan Johar’s silly scare attempts.

Part 1 is done. Part 2 anyone?  Ram Gopal Varma is forgiven.

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