Viacom 18 Motion Pictures & Etaki Entertainment present “The House Next Door”

Produced by: Siddharth

Directed by: Milind Rau

Written by: Milind Rau & Siddharth

Music: Girishh

Starring: Siddharth, Andrea Jeremiah, Anisha Angelina Victor, Atul Kulkarni, Suresh, Prakash Belawadi, Manav Vij & others

To be sure, there are loopholes: why, for example, must Jenny (Anisha Angelina Victor) want to jump in a well when she is possessed by a friendly spirit, which leads indirectly to the climax? Why again should friendly but troubled spirits want a family to vacate the house, and so frighten them hideously? How did the eyewitness to the backstory understand the significance of what happened to a Chinese family and her that night when she was just eight years old? Also, how did the hero get such a hideous nightmare? And no, none of these are spoilers. Professional critics avoid them in the right spirit of a review, pun intended! Ha, ha.

Granting these rather excessive cinematic licenses then, “The House Next Door” chills you with its innate potential. Never mind if all these errors could have been easily avoided or rectified, but where would Indian films reach if that was always done? Ahh…that’s wishful thinking indeed!

“The House Next Door” is also horror with a difference – yes, there is a wrong committed as a back-story, but there is nothing about romances gone wrong, thank Heavens (we use the term only as an expression!). In Hindi cinema (never mind if this is trilingual), we have had very rare deft horror thrillers in recent (!) times – 15 years ago there were the Ram Gopal Varma masterpieces “Bhoot” and the almost equally good “Darna Mana Hai.” In 2008, there was “1920” and in 2009 and 2010 respectively, “Raaz: The Mystery Continues” and “404 Error Not Found,” though neither connected much with the audience.

This film also spins a contemporary social message of great importance, which we will not reveal to avoid another spoiler. On the surface, the film is about the very-much-in-love couple Dr. Krish (Sidharth), a neurosurgeon, and Lakshmi (Andrea Jeremiah), who can barely keep their hands off each other. They come to live in a beautiful hilly area, close to where Krish works. The house next door belongs to Paul (Atul Kulkarni) and his family, including his father, second wife and a daughter each from both wives. Of these, Jenny, the elder, is an immature girl, and she even takes fancy to Krish.

When strange things start happening to the Paul family. Dr. Krish helps out by introducing his friend Dr. Prasad (Suresh), a psychiatrist. Jenny’s revelations to him first make him think that a fake exorcism would be helpful, so he contacts the local pastor (Prakash Belawadi). However, when the day arrives, everyone realizes that Jenny is possessed. A psychic (unknown actor, but excellent) is summoned.

Meanwhile, Lakshmi gets pregnant. As it happens, both the intrepid Dr. Prasad and the psychic piece the back-story together through their own respective rational and psychic ingenuities. So what happens next? And will Lakshmi’s pregnancy be affected? What about the scope of a sequel, always a preferred option for horror films?

Mercifully, the film provides all the answers. The script is clever, but for the rather big but avoidable flaws mentioned above, and Milind Rau’s direction is dexterous, though, for valid reasons, we feel that Dr. Prasad should not have been killed in the end. Why do we say that? Watch the film!

Yes, the film is indeed worth a watch. Siddharth does well as Dr. Krish, especially in the frenetic climax where Paul’s youngest daughter must be saved from the evil spirit. Andrea is alright, but Anisha makes a mark as Jenny. Atul Kulkarni shines as the helpless and harangued Paul. The rest are good, even the maidservant in her small cameo.

Girishh’s background score evokes the right mood without being exceptional, while his Hindi songs are functional and forgotten as soon as they are over. Full marks are due to sound designers Vishnu Govind, Vijay Rathinam and Sree Sankar and texturing artist Devesh Patel. There is decent VFX, but Shreyaas Krishna’s cinematography, on occasions, is darker than the moments warrant, and a shade tacky in some outdoor background shots.

If horror is your potion, go for this. If not, this film is still a one-time watch for its decent plotline and execution. A fellow critic called it a “shiver-giver” and yes, some moments do give you a tingling tremble.

Rating: ***1/2

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