Judge Daryl Loomis is glad to know that monsters are appeased by a catchy song.
Over five hours of monster movie madness!
When we take that statement from the box cover of the Bollywood Horror Collection, Volume 2 and look at the words, most of them are true if taken individually. "Five hours" sums up the amount of time it takes to watch these two films pretty well. "Monster movie" is basically true; there are definitely monsters in these movies. "Madness" is the only word here that is inarguably true; these two films are definitely insane. Taken whole, however, the statement seems to imply something good. This is a filthy, rotten lie.
Facts of the Case
The two films that comprise this five hour stretch of madness are from the Sai Om Productions, headed by F.U. Ramsay and directed by Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay.
Veerana: Vengeance of the Vampire: The real reason for the vampire's vengeance is that its role was left entirely on the cutting room floor, because this is a film about a witch. This particular sorceress has been imprisoned in a shrine for hundreds of years until her spirit enters the body of a young girl. Now the girl, Jasmin (played by an actress of the same name) has become quite the seductress. She's very popular with the gents until people start to realize she's killing off her suitors.
Purami Haveli: Mansion of Evil: Hey, at least this one's actually about a mansion, one that houses a giant hairy man who is somehow averse to Christian symbols. The place has been bought for a girl by her uncle but everyone starts dying the second they walk inside.
I'm not sure what I expected when I requested the Bollywood Horror Collection, Volume 2, but I doubt that anything could have prepared me for these two films. I have essentially zero experience with Indian film production but, if these entries are representative, I can say that they have a strange idea of what makes up a horror movie. The nation's standards for showing sex and violence are conservative, so they are very tame in general, but the real problem is structural. It is simply impossible to maintain the tension necessary in horror if, at random points, characters are going to jump into some pop-infused musical number that has little or nothing to do with what just happened onscreen. It's uncanny how much inconsequential information they are able to pack into these films. While both films open strongly, albeit in the same way, with a hard-driving rock theme. It made me think I was in for a treat but, make no mistake, this was certainly a trick. These are, by far, the best scenes in the films; the exponential drop off begins after the first scene change.
Much of the pointlessness of the story could be forgiven with strong performances or a good look, but both films fail miserably at this as well. The acting is truly cringe-worthy; when not visibly about to laugh, they appear to be made of stone, and I'm not just talking about the round table of clay cone-head golems that seem to have something to do with the witch in Veerana. It's easy to laugh at their attempts here, but much more difficult to laugh at their attempts at comedy. These come in random sub-plots that take up nearly a third of the films, have nothing to with the horror parts of them, and appear to be rejected footage from the worst of Telemundo.
This cheesiness is made much worse from the look of the films. Made in 1988 and 1989 respectively, the cheap sets, horrible backdrops, and monster effects that begin with rubber masks and end with back hair would make much more sense coming from 1963 and directed by Ed Wood. The red and blue filters with lightning matted on top don't help, but the overall production is laughable, perfect fodder for an international version of MST3K.
Mondo Macabro, once again, has done their best with these obscure titles. Working with questionable material that doesn't much cater to a large audience on any level, they have spent years as the torchbearers for the weird world of B-Cinema. Their presentation of the Bollywood Horror Collection, Volume 2 is no exception. The image is often spotty, with plenty of grain and a surprising amount of damage for films that are only twenty years old. The original prints appear to have been in terrible shape and Mondo Macabro has done their best to clean the films up. The transfers look good and the color levels are bright and garish. The stereo sound, while not as dynamic, is just fine. This is a loud mono mix, so turn your sound down a little before the films start, but it's otherwise perfectly acceptable. The only extras are text-based info screens about these productions and the struggles that the films, especially Veerana, faced with the censors. Another quality release of abysmally bad films from Mondo Macabro.
I certainly can't judge all Bollywood films by the Bollywood Horror Collection, Volume 2 by any means, but I will say that you cannot mix a horror movie and a romantic comedy/musical, no matter how hard you try. Those making the Friday the 13th version of Mamma Mia!, stop now. It will be terrible.
Mondo Macabro is exonerated for their continued efforts to bring the weirdest
of the weird to our home theaters. These two films, however, are guilty of
things that may take me years to wrap my head around. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice, Veerana: Vengeance Of The Vampire
Perp Profile, Veerana: Vengeance Of The Vampire
Studio: Mondo Macabro
Distinguishing Marks, Veerana: Vengeance Of The Vampire
• Production essay
Scales of Justice, Purami Haveli: Mansion Of Evil
Perp Profile, Purami Haveli: Mansion Of Evil
Studio: Mondo Macabro
Distinguishing Marks, Purami Haveli: Mansion Of Evil
• Production essay
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