Banners: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Etaki Entertainment
Director: Milind Rau
Cast: Siddharth, Andrea Jeremiah, Atul Kulkarni, Anisha Victor
Writer: Milind Rau, Siddharth
Horror has never been a strength of Hindi filmmakers but The House Next Door sure is a surprise package. For one, it does not follow the hackneyed notion which equates horror with a ghost that looks like an actor with their make-up gone horribly wrong.
The film is set in the beautiful Himalayan valley. Newlywed couple, neurosurgeon Krishnakanth/Krish (Siddharth) and Lakshmi (Andrea Jeremiah), move into a new neighbourhood. Soon, their neighbours, the D’Souzas, Paul (Atul Kulkarni), his father, his wife (Lizzy) and their two daughters, Jennifer/Jenny (Anisha Victor) and Sara move into the house next door. Almost immediately, things get eerie around everyone and the film sets out to scare the daylights out of its audience.
At the D’Souza’s house-warming party, Krish has his first unnerving encounter, where he witnesses a possessed Jenny standing on the edge of a well, ready to jump. Krish rushes to help the girl and what follows is a series blood-curdling incidents.
While some of the spooky elements suggest they have been pulled out of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Ring, Milind Rau’s execution saves it from becoming another Hollywood rip-off. And it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The VFX is within the realm of possibility and has not been overdone to make it over-dramatic. The first half of the story is gripping and throws a real scare into you. As the story inches towards the second half, the director ups the scare quotient – elements like what-lurks-in-dark-corners, the panic of being followed by unseen eyes, ghostly shadows, spirits emerging from the dark – reminiscent of age-old tricks from horror films back in the day.
Krish, who is hell bent on saving his neighbours from unholy spirits, seeks the help of his colleague, a psychiatrist, and finally resorts to exorcism with the help of a priest. It is only when the D’Souzas try to escape the haunted villa that the crux of the story seems to emerge. The climax is engaging and menacing. The background score is decent. Wasting no time on songs, the film comes out as a winner.
Performance-wise, Siddharth is excellent. Andrea Jeremiah is good. Atul Kulkarni looks baffled and is all over the place throughout the film. The one who steals the show is Anisha Victor. The rest of the cast lends adequate support.
Verdict: Decent watch!