Darr @ The Mall (2014)
Asia's largest mall is ready for it's inauguration, however there have been various accidental deaths in the mall and the owners are tired of stories about the mall being haunted. Vishnu is hired as the mall's chief of security and during the mall's inaugural party, must work to solve the mystery behind the supernatural occurrences while the death toll continues rising.
REVIEW: It's no secret to those that know me that I love Bollywood movies. And horror movies, for that matter. So I always love it when those two cross over, even if the end result isn't exactly all that good (such as with Vikram Bhatt's Creature, also from 2014). After all, it's not every day that you get to have random upbeat song and dance numbers in the middle of an atmospheric horror movie about ghostly murdered orphan children!
What surprised me though was just how atmospheric and genuinely creepy Darr at the Mall was at times. I can count on half a hand how many Bollywood horror movies I actually find creepy or scary, so I'm glad this one can be added to the small group. Actually, large chunks of it reminded me quite a bit of the recent 2014 American horror flick Last Shift, only set in a mall instead of a police station, so if you enjoyed that movie, you will enjoy at least some sections of this one.
In terms of that mall, I actually really love it when horror movies take place in a large empty mall. Not nearly enough of them do (Chopping Mall and Dawn of the Dead are really the only ones that immediately come to mind), so the setting here was perfectly creepy and effective, not to mention visually different from the norm, so I really enjoyed that. With that said though, it was pretty strange to me to see a pretty happening busy night club inside the mall. Yes, you read that right. A night club inside the mall. At first I was kind of confused as to what these people consider a mall and what they consider a night club, but then one of my close Indian friends clarified for me that large malls having night clubs in them is actually a pretty normal thing over in India, so I guess I can't really hold that against the movie. Luckily that said club empties out before too long so our characters get properly stuck in the large empty mall alone with the killer ghosts, with no night club full of people to get in the way of the feeling of isolation.
In all honesty, they pretty much seemed to only even have the night club scenes in there as an excuse to squeeze in a random song and dance number (as Bollywood movies are infamous for doing) without it seeming too random and out of place. And while I'm being honest, that song was actually kinda catchy and I've had it stuck in my head for days ever since. However, considering the tone of the movie, I'm thankful there was only the one random song and dance number, as opposed to the 5+ that most Bollywood movies have.
Where the movie does stumble a bit though I found, was with the characters. Other than the main security guard and some of the higher-up people in charge of the mall, the other main characters in the movie are a group of young adults that are friends with one another and are related to, or children of, or some connection to, the higher ups in charge of the mall. I'm not really 100% clear exactly on that, because the movie didn't really make it clear, and that's part of the problem I have, it's that these teen-ish characters are not fleshed out well at all and I was constantly confused as to which ones were which and how they were connected to the others, and it really wasn't until there were only two of these teen friend characters left alive that I really felt like I had them down pat.
Additionally, there's this big mystery for the characters to solve as to why this is all happening, why this mall is haunted, and why the main security guard character is some how connected to it all, but it's really not that big of a mystery as I pretty much called it almost right away once it started alerting us to the fact that there even is a mystery to figure out.
What the movie lacks in writing however, it more than makes up for in genuine creepy scenes and amazing visuals. In terms of Bollywood horror movies, this is one of the best, if not the best, that I've seen so far when it comes to the visuals. I'm not even talking about the CGI (which goes back and forth between being great and being kinda ho-hum), but more-so just the style to it all. It's very obvious that the director drew inspiration from classic Italian horror cinema for many of the death scenes and the more memorable shots, with Dario Argento's classic works specifically coming to mind on more than one occasion.
All in all, some of the writing aside, especially when it comes to the teen-ish characters and the big over-arching mystery, and ignoring the random song and dance number, Darr @ The Mall (or simply Darr at the Mall, as I'm not quite sure why they felt the need to use the @ symbol in the title) was actually a pretty creepy effective little horror movie, set in an excellent horror movie location that doesn't get used nearly often enough, with some nice obvious Italian horror cinema influences in the filming style. Regardless of what you think about Bollywood movies in general, horror fans are going to want to check this one out.
8/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward