Bollywood has had a love-hate relationship with horror cinema. The filmmakers never had the resources for special effects and good quality CGI required to construct a satisfying experience for the viewers. As a result, a large majority of horror films in India are cheesy and look artificial. Sure, that is true for Hollywood too, but only upto an extent. There are some really good horror movies made in Hollywood that push the boundaries and do not rely on cliches and special effects to scare viewers. But what about Bollywood? Here is our list of ten of those movies in Bollywood that are well-made and scary and no Indian horror fan should miss them.
(1) Darna Mana Hai
Ram Gopal Varma is one of the few Bollywood filmmakers who is not afraid to experiment. As a result, his movies vastly differ in quality and style. He may have made a high quality film like Satya, but he also made Aag which reportedly made viewers leave within minutes after the film had begun. His Darna Mana Hai is one of his experiments – and I daresay a successful one. It is a wacky film made up of six short stories in one big story which also has a satisfying ending. Every story is pretty good, and some are scary, some merely amusing, and some horrifying. Varma has chosen his actors well. Do not miss the Rajpal Yadav story.
1920 was an unexpected success, both critical and commercial, although it employed every horror cliche one could think of. Not to mention wooden acting from the male lead. But it was a genuinely scary film, and Bollywood horror fans cannot ask no more than that. It is a haunted house story, and involved a young couple who move in a huge remote house. The trouble starts after an evil spirit begins to haunt the house and enters the body of the female lead (played ably by Adah Sharma). That is the very definition of a haunted house film, but it is really scary and currently we can ask no more than that.
(3) Haunted – 3D
Perhaps the only Bollywood horror film that got its special effects right, Haunted 3D. Yes, rest of the stuff was as hackneyed as other films, but the 3D tag was justified. It also had a relentless pace and continuous tension which made you never want to look away (except when the ghosts seemed to come out of the screen) Probably because of the visual quality, the film was unprecedentedly successful on the box office
(4) Bhool Bhulaiyaa
Priyadarshan is mostly known for his comedy films, typically involving a muddle in the end when the large disparate cast come together to run and throw things at each other. This is mindless fun, slapstick comedy at its best even if it is repetitive. Bhool Bhulaiyaa fuses slapstick comedy with horror and a groundbreaking performance by Vidya Balan. The antics of Paresh Rawal and Rajpal Yadav keep you entertained and the haunting Mere Dholna by Shreya Ghoshal stays with you long after you’re done with the film.
The Bhatts are known for their horror and erotic films and sometimes they use the elements of both genres in the film. Raaz is an example of that and like almost all Bollywood horror movies, it is a potboiler, with suggestive scenes, creepy house, and an evil female spirit. But it all together works well, because it is a scary film and uses cinematography and sound design to good effect. Ashutosh Rana is the standout performer.
Another of Ram Gopal Varma’s films, which manage to be scary while having wafer-thin plot and even thinner characterisations. There is also a reinforcements of the ridiculous association of cats with ghosts and evil. But all is forgiven because Raat has a few genuine spooks and is all the more notable for it was released in 1992. It is definitely better than most horror films that came in the succeeding decade.
(7) Ek Thi Daayan
One of the better written and acted horror films. Most Bollywood horror films can be called ‘B grade’ but not this one. Also, full marks for originality. Well, it was the doyen himself (Vishal Bhardwaj) who co-wrote the script and co-produced the film. Performances all around are excellent and debut director Kannan Iyer has done a remarkable job.
13B employs the mainly western notion of 13 being an inauspicious number in Christian mythology and other beliefs. A family move in the address and get hooked up to a daily soap until they come to know that the daily soap is telling the story of their own family and in gory detail. Of course, like most Bollywood horror flicks, you have to ignore reason for a little more than two hours. But the scare factor is strong in this one.
(9) Vaastu Shastra
Another Ram Gopal Varma horror film. Well, the man never stops trying, let’s give him that. Vaastu Shastra is a lesson to parents that you should not ignore your children when they say they’ve made imaginary friends. Imaginary friends may not be so imaginary. The film is well-made and has a nice pace and serves as a good popcorn flick to watch it with your friends on a rainy night.
While Pizza is not a Bollywood film, but it could not be excluded from the list because of how damn good it is. The direction and narration is excellent and while it may appear to lack substance, it does not. It has a twist in the end and it is almost as effective as the one in The Others starring Nicole Kidman. Great performances, brilliant background score that keeps the viewers on their toes, Pizza is a far cry from your routine Bollywood horror flick, in a good way.