Judge Brett Cullum never thought you could make a Bollywood horror film. Read the review to see whether or not he can say that now...
Bollywood meets John Carpenter! If only we had a Hindi leper musical number with arms falling out of saris, this one would be perfect.
Bollywood movie musicals are ridiculous affairs in their own charming unique way. I love all the over-the-top dance numbers, with hundreds of sari-clad women singing about lemonade when they think of their potential arranged marriage. Indian cinema is too cool, and most people don't realize that Moulin Rouge was just copying the Bollywood formula note for note. Yes, that's right—Baz Luhrman isn't the genius who came up with mixing pop songs and dancing Hindi chorus girls in a tragic love story. It's been done for decades! What I haven't seen is a horror movie done in the Bollywood style. Sure, I've seen plenty of ill-fated romances, but what if you took I Know What You Did Last Summer and remade it with an attractive Indian cast? Well look no further than Dhund, AKA The Fog. Now I suspect the distributors of this film may catch some unsuspecting saps in to renting or buying this, thinking it's some variation of the seminal 1980 John Carpenter flick The Fog (or, more formally, John Carpenter's The Fog). From what I've heard about the remake, The Fog (2005), you might be better off with this Hindi version than the one starring all those WB personalities. This movie has nothing to do with a rabid pack of pissed-off leper ghosts seeking out the descendants of a small coastal California town. No, it's even more strange than that.
Dhund starts off with a scene where a man wanders into a warehouse full of mannequins and lights them on fire. Then he is killed, and for the next several hours we are left with no idea why we saw this. Meanwhile, four teens sing and dance their way through a beauty contest, even though one of them is constantly being threatened. Seems an old high school friend has a psycho brother with bad hair who wants his sister to win the Black Beauty Pageant at any cost. Even though the warned girl's dog ends up in the freezer next to the ice cream, she still competes and takes the crown. Then one rainy night, when she is alone in a large mansion with her best friend, the killer comes calling. The two ladies kill the killer, but now the kids must figure out how to dispose of the corpse. Our not-so-bright teens decide the family swimming pool might be a good dumping spot since it needs to be cleaned. But the body won't stay dead, and keeps popping up trying to kill them over and over again. Soon our dead killer is reported missing by his distraught sister, and the teens have to race back to the mansion before the police get there, because they forgot to get the blood out of the bathtub. Then they all head off to Uncle Tom's cabin…whoops, I mean, beach house, to get away from all the madness. The killer corpse follows them, of course, and we experience one of the most whacked-out endings you will ever see in cinema. All this, and musical numbers too!
During this whole fabulous mess I kept feeling I was watching a Dario Argento nightmare after the "auteur of spaghetti fright" had overdosed on curry or chicken korma. This could easily be Opera with different costumes and a whole lot more nasal singing. Shyam Ramsay directed it, and he's rather famous for being part of an entire clan of brothers who produce Indian thrillers. It doesn't star many recognizable faces (at least to Western eyes), and it seems like Dhund was a silly experiment in taking Bollywood clichés and mixing them with some Western horror traditions—sort of a samosa made of Halloween and Bride and Prejudice. The blending of big production musical numbers and slasher flick scenes feels about as natural as ordering prime rib at an Indian restaurant, but damned if it isn't loopy fun. The acting is silly, the musical numbers are lush, the blood often looks neon, the editing sometimes is too abrupt, and the killer wields a small rake that somehow makes whooshing noises and sparks whenever it shows up. The plot makes little sense when all is said and done, but you won't care as you sit there slack-jawed wondering exactly what hit you after two and a half hours of singing and dancing while a killer stalks the cast. After watching Dhund, laughing gas will pale in comparison.
The DVD from Image Entertainment is acceptable, but doesn't offer a very robust package. I've never seen Bollywood films get much in the way of remastering, and this one has dirt and scratches all over the source print. For a movie from 2003 it looks like something from the '80s, a little soft throughout with halos and haze always present. Colors are slightly too bright, but that might possibly be from the original print. The surround sound works well in the musical numbers, and gets put to good use when the killer shows up, but it has a tinny sound with a subtle hiss throughout. There are no extras except a pair of short television spots, which consist of isolated musical numbers cut down to ninety seconds. At a run time of just over two and a half hours I doubt many deleted scenes exist, but a cast commentary could have been fun. Some of the movie could benefit from explanation or clarification of what they were trying to achieve. Bollywood is a unique genre, and I've yet to see a disc released in the States that explains its conventions well.
Dhund: The Fog certainly isn't your typical Bollywood affair, and it doesn't succeed as either a musical or a horror movie. What makes it so much fun is the way it haphazardly slaps the two genres together to make an unnatural yet wholly entertaining mash-up of two things that should never be mixed. If you're a horror fan or a champion of Hindi musicals, this is definitely worth a look when you want a giggle. Dhund is great fun in a lot of ways. I hope they make a sequel and use the storyline of John Carpenter's Antonio Bay epic some day. Couldn't be any worse than a Hollywood remake, could it?
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