Kaali Khuhi Hindi Movie Review
In the new Netflix film 'Kaali Khuhi', a 10-year old girl tries to save her family from the curse of their ancestors' misdeeds. The 'kaali khuli' in director Terrie Samundra's film refers to a black well, where ancient women threw away the female new-borns in their family. Samundra's film talks about the deliberate killing of the newly born child in ancient Punjab. When the eldest female member in their family gets sick, Shivangi, Darshan, and Priya go to her Punjab house. This triggers a series of events that harkens back to the horrible past, where female new-borns were infant homicide victims. Then, the onus falls on the 10-year-old to save her family from the spectres of the past.
The premise is interesting, but the execution of it is not up to the mark. The makers neither work up a sense of dread nor freak us out with effective jump scares. Well-made horror movies follow the age-old principle of the genre: never show the ghost early on and too many times. We see the ghost in 'Kaali Khuhi' way too early, and by the time it subsides, we are barely awake (pun intended).
Some filmmakers challenge the audience to sit through their horror films while offering them a grand reward if they succeed in it. A classic example is Ram Gopal Varma, who offered it as part of his 'Phoonk' promotion. I must admit that I found it hard to sit through 'Kaali Khuhi'. It is not because the movie is scare-a-minute good, but because it is plain boring. I bet if you watch it alone in a dark room at night, you might doze off. As an audience member, the challenge here is how not to fall into a light sleep.
Even the shoddy horror movies have a moment or two that makes us jump up and down, but this film lacks those moments. The improper execution is understandable because horror is no easy genre to pull off. Why? Because commercial and artistic elements of this genre seldom complement. A good horror genre movie, like say, Pisaasu, may not be 'scary good'. On the other hand, a fiendishly frightening movie, like say, Raat, may not have much to offer other than some great scares, quality making, and terrific performances. All of the above is to say, this genre does not offer filmmakers a lot of wiggle room for originality or creativity.
Despite considering the challenge that horror presents filmmakers with, I still cannot understand how the artists get it all this wrong. Kaali Khuhi is no more than a series of horrific images and videos put together. The climax of the movie is so contrived that even the makers might find it confusing some years down the road.
The only redeeming characteristics of the movie are the performances and some atmosphere building. Shabana Azmi, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Leela Samson, and Satyadeep Mishra may not be acting out of their skins here, but they at least act as if they belong in a horror movie universe. The surprise element here is the wunderkind, Riva Arora. With that tiny hair and cute face, she reminds me of Sana Saeed's Anjali Khanna from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. For a small girl, she acts 'scared' with a sense of conviction.
With its always mounting fog, almost-incessant rain, and darkness, the makers try to make a movie that stays loyal to the genre. One may even appreciate the selection of the movie location for it. Now, you decide whether all of these bright spots are enough to make it a worthy watch.