A horror flick set in an empty apartment in which things go bump, using standard, familiar tropes, and still able to create freshness? It is a tough ask, but `Phobia’ pulls it off with pizazz, helped by a crackerjack plot and performances.
A flat with an eerily locked room, a cracked mirror, an about-to-be-bloodied bath-tub, a black cat and fleeting apparitions. And a young woman suffering from trauma which has led to agoraphobia : Mehek (Radhika Apte) cannot step out, because there lurks evil. But, and this is what the film asks, as every similar film does, what if the danger is inside?
Kripalani, who had helmed the scary ‘Ragini MMS’, delivers a smart, intelligent spook-fest which keeps us on the edge. His leading lady knows exactly what to do : Radhika Apte doesn’t put a foot wrong as she goes about scaling it up gradually– being alarmed, scared, petrified, and outright panicked-with-blind-terror.
Part of the skill-set required to do an effective film in this genre is to know when to ratchet up the tension, and when to let it go. The inclusion of other characters in this chamber drama does exactly that : Satyadeep Mishra as the pal who wants to be more, Ankur Vikal as the creepy neighbor under suspicion for having done away with his lady love, Yahaswini Dayama as a friendly, inquisitive girl who keeps showing up even when she’s not wanted, an older sister who may or not be a loving sibling, and a therapist who wants to help Mehek get past her phobia.
Many elements remind you of other famous movies set in ghostly apartments, combined with those which send you into ‘found footage’ territory. But ‘Phobia’ stays mostly its own film. A couple of irritants do crop up, resulting in the tautness slipping a little, and in a few sequences which feel slapped on.
But they don’t really take away from the impact of the film. And Apte keeps you reeled in. She’s consistently been doing interesting work. With this one she has staked fair claim to be one of the best acts in Bolly town. ‘Phobia’ is a genuine frightener, so far away from those unintentionally comic monstrosities Bollywood keeps slinging out that you feel like cheering.
Keep your eyes slitted, and be on your guard, because something wicked this way comes.
Cast: Radhika Apte, Satyadeep Mishra, Ankur Vikal, Yashaswini Dayama
Director : Pavan Kripalani
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines