Horror Story is the first Bollywood horror movie I’ve ever seen. It’s nice to learn that the tropes of the horror genre are universal, even when the movie itself isn’t so great. Don’t get me wrong. Horror Story is entertaining and has a few good jump scares, including one that made me shriek so loud it startled my cat. But the story is – well, you’ll see.
Seven attractive young people are busy getting drunk at a bar because one of them is going to America. They decide to spend the night in a hotel that’s supposed to be haunted. That’s pretty much your plot, right there, which is one of the movie’s problems. Nobody has any agency or even much of a personality. The Final Girl doesn’t drink, which good for her!
Once at the hotel, our hapless youngsters immediately start breaking the tropes. Nobody has sex but they split up all the time, even after one of them observes that the evil spirit only kills stragglers so maybe they should all stick together. Eventually our heroes discover that the hotel used to be a mental institution that was the final residence of Maya the Witch, who calls the petrified youths on her cell phone to let them know she wants to kill them all.
Maya doesn’t quite measure up to my favorite evil witch of all time, Bathsheba of The Conjuring, but she really hustles. There are seven youths, so it takes her awhile to whittle the crowd down to a manageable size. Luckily, these young people are really dumb, which helps. Eventually the survivors discover a way to banish Maya, which is good, and then decide to split up, because that makes no sense at all. I try not to root for people to die in horror movies, but Horror Story strained my resolve.
I enjoyed Horror Story. It’s a movie with plot elements but no real plot, but who cares? It looks good; there’s nothing I hate more than a gritty, grainy movie where you can’t see shit. Bottom line: there are worse ways to kill 85 minutes.
Why are there so many found footage movies out there, and why are most of them so awful? The answer to the first question is money; they’re cheap to make. Of course, the plot usually consists of four or five bad actors walking around the abandoned hospital/lunatic asylum/haunted house in Technicolor GoatGreen light, waiting for the evil spirits/demons/ghosts to kill them all. I’ve reviewed a number of movies like this in the past year, and most of them are bad. Grave Encounters is the exception to the rule, but much to my surprise Bad Ben – contradicting its own title – is pretty good also.
Made with security cameras and an iPhone, Bad Ben cost $300 to make (according to IMDB). Compared to most low budget found-footage, this is a masterpiece. The main character has agency and does more than wander around the abandoned house/hospital/mental institution for an hour and twenty minutes. There is actual suspense, thanks to a few jump scares.
Tom Riley buys a house cheap at a sheriff’s auction. His plan to resell it and make tons of money hits a speedbump when it turns out the house is haunted. Doors open and close, furniture moves around and a shadowy figure stalks the grounds. Using the security cameras installed in every room of the house, Tom tries and fails to catch the culprits in the act. Undeterred by the locked room in the basement, the satanic altar in the attic and the creepy kid’s drawings in the living room Tom soldiers on, deadpan, a middle-aged guy with a habit of filming himself in his boxer shorts.
Tom has a dilemma. As he tells us, he can’t leave because he’s sunk every penny into buying the house. So he tries to deal with the escalating craziness, with mixed results. Nothing works but luckily not much seems to phase Tom, who apparently has aspirations to be a vlogger. Why else record yourself? Tom – the only person to appear in Bad Ben – talks to the camera as if it’s another person (‘why are the lights off? I left them on.’) and generally underreacts when most people would run screaming for the door.
If you like found-footage movies, give Bad Ben a try. It’s better than 90% of the found footage movies out there, a number I just made up. Bad Ben’s success (???) spawned a prequel and a sequel, neither of which I’ve seen. Warning: if you want to see Bad Ben, don’t watch the trailer.