Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bandh Darwaza (1990)

Bandh Darwaza is included in the same Mondo Macabro double movie pack as Purana Mandir. It’s an enjoyably weird slice of Bollywood horror, although Purana Mandir (also a Ramsay Brothers production) is definitely the better of the two films. Bandh Darwaza, made in 1990, is closer to being a conventional western-style horror movie. Apart, of course, from the song-and-dance numbers and the comic interludes and the amazingly involved romantic sub-plots.

A woman finds herself unable to have children, despite performing all the appropriate religious rituals and visiting every shrine in the province. Then her maid informs her that there is a way for her to conceive a child. What she doesn’t tell her is that she belongs to the devil-worshipping cult on Black Mountain and that the child’s father will in reality be a demonic monster. A vampire in fact. If her child is a boy, she can keep him, but if the child is female she must be given to the cult. Naturally when the child is born and turns out to be a girl the mother conveniently forgets her promise to the cult. Eighteen years later this same child finds herself caught up in the cult’s plot to take revenge.

From this point on the plot becomes increasingly bewildering, with various female friends and family members also becoming involved in the demonic shenanigans. A mysterious woman encountered on a country road leads them to a ruined temple where the devil-worshippers do their devil-worshipping thing.

You know it’s a horror movie when one of the lead female characters is chained up in a dungeon. You know it’s a Bollywood horror film when one of the lead female characters is chained up in a dungeon and bursts into song. Yes, really. It’s touches like this that make Bollywood horror so deliciously bizarre and exotic. Sadly the musical numbers aren’t as well one as the ones in the earlier Purana Mandir, but they’re still an essential part of the enjoyment of a movie such as this. The acting is mostly up to the standard you expect in a horror movie.

The actual horror movie component of the production is totally insane and enormous fun, so you end up not worrying about whether the plot makes any sense at all and just enjoying the ride. The cinematography and the special effects are both outrageous collections of horror movie clichés, which is just as it should be. The gothic atmosphere is laid on with a trowel. Fog. Lots of fog. And then more fog. And thunder. And then more thunder. It’s a movie that is unlikely to scare anyone, but despite being a very long film it’s consistently entertaining. The print is, as Mondo Macabro freely admit, not in fantastic shape, but then you do get two movies plus a documentary and other extras. It’s all great fun in a delightfully strange way. Another winner from Mondo Macabro.

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