Eyes (1998)

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Eyes, The (1998)
Cast: Vikram, Vanivishwanath,Devan, Pradap Chandran
Director: George Kithu
Nutshell: University study trip goes horribly wrong as ghastly ghost is unleashed

 

A South Indian movie dubbed rather awkwardly to Hindi begins with a group of university students preparing for an archaeological trip to one of the students ancestral lands. The purpose of the trip is to study one of the tribes that live beyond that region and to make reports and gather evidence. Two male (one of them a total alcoholic) and one female teacher accompany the students on the trip and they set off by van, merrily swaying to the tunes of the obnoxious Daler Mehdi on the way.

Along the way once in a while there are shots of the thick jungle accompanied by typical horror movie music just to remind the viewer that there is a lurking evil presence somewhere – unexplained as yet. The bunch of troopers settle into the Purani Haveli (old mansion) belonging to a lad Hari whose ancestral home the place used to be. His Granny had insisted on sending him with a particularly gaudy looking amulet – to protect him from evil on his journey, and especially in the vicinity of the Purani Haveli where old gran feels something is not quite right. All goes well however and the students appear to be having quite a time, yet we know that something nasty is just around the corner.

Meanwhile the students proceed to study the tribal customs, which don’t appear to be of any value at all as an anthropological study. One fateful day while rummaging around the distant corners of the Purani Haveli two of the least bright students (they all appear to be rather slow and very overage) discover some old artifacts and a couple of paintings of some gorgeous bombshell. The lads insist that one of the paintings that appears incomplete be finished up by Hari who happens to be a good artist. Meanwhile the music warns the audience that what they are doing is distinctly bad idea, for whatever reason.

The second folly that the students commit albeit quite unknowingly is that along their strolls they discover a large tree with a nail jutting out of it like a six inch dagger. They tug and pull at the nail until it finally gives and suddenly, quite out of the blue they are lashed by an eerie wind that appears out of nowhere. All very ominous signs indeed, but worse is to follow as one fine day screams are heard from the girls room where we discover that the painting that was brought out from the rubble in the basement has inexplicably gone up in flames. Worse still as the painting suddenly decides to levitate and fly out of the nearest window and off into the jungle. The amateur anthropologists hadn’t bargained for ghostly paintings are quite shocked at these bizarre happenings.

A day or so later the typical Bollywood ghostly beauty begins to make regular appearances in the obligatory flowing white Sari accompanied by a Lata ji clone baying away in the background trying her best to sound mysterious. She also has the power to assume the appearance of any living person (yawn!) The entrancing figure also tends to disappear once you close in on it and it tantalizes each of the people who set eyes on her. Clearly there is a wandering spirit making the rounds in these parts…restless and full of murderous revenge, as we are about to discover to our intense horror. One fine night one of the lads can’t get much sleep so he goes for a walk in the jungle (as any sane person would?) and sure enough he comes across the shapely beauty in the floating white sari wailing away. She lures him to a convenient spot where a snog turns into a ghastly embrace of death as the apparition turns into a vampire and sinks her fangs into the hapless moron. It’s a particularly unfrightening scene despite the best efforts of the music director who blasts away trying desperately to infuse any sense of horror to proceedings. There are a couple of equally uninteresting death sequences which is followed by a tedious dose of comedy from the Police inspector and the retarded sidekick constable.

One night one of the professors and Hari catch the ghost sinking her fangs into one of their group and they manage to interrupt her and save the lad just in time. The ghost does a spin like Wonder Woman and vanishes into thin air convincing the group that they need spiritual help and not the help of the police. A sage Swami ji, highly respected and with a terrific mane of unkempt gray tresses arrives on the scene spouting all sorts of mumbo-jumbo, but it seems to do the trick. There are some desperate attempts at “special effects” as the Holy Man arrives and Neeli (the ghost) attempts to scare him off with her usual tactics of the gale force winds followed by a blaze of flames, but both times the Holy Man is able to counter her devious methods with some potions and powders of his own. Clearly our Holy Man is not to be trifled with. After much mayhem there is ultimately a showdown between good and evil in the shape of the murderous spirit of Neeli and the forces of righteousness in the form of the Swami ji and his locks – a bit like Father Merrin’s encounter with the Demon in The Exorcist!

It’s all rather stale and tedious stuff really with no novel twist thrown in and no new angle presented on what is an age-old story line. We have had these wandering white sari clad vengeance filled ghosts ever since Bollywood made its first forays into the realm of horror. This movie is the same old story played out rather tediously. In fact the first half of the movie is quite excruciatingly slow, until Neeli finally starts to use her fangs to good effect…fangs that we never get to see. In fact there is a shocking lack of gore and the only time we are treated to any blood is when Neeli cries tears of blood – another stale trick from a very redundant book. One has to wait the entire movie for a pay off scene that involves a quite laughable transformation where Neeli turns into a six hundred year old hag, warts and all!

Cheap, horribly acted, badly shot and rather sluggish the film is somewhat saved by a remarkable performance by the Swami ji who hams it up quite marvelously as the film builds to its shocking conclusion. It’s not the worst Bollywood horror film ever, but seriously lacks any decent gore and is far too talky with not nearly enough action. In this day and age the sari-clad ghost doesn’t quite cut it even if she tends to turn into a blood-lusting vampire by moonlight. Cheap and very tacky indeed with a cast of no-hopers and not scary for even a fleeting moment – very much in keeping with the Bollywood Horror tradition.