Bhoot Part One - The Haunted Ship Movie Review: Emotionally deep film about trauma let down by average horror elements
Vicky Kaushal and his co-actors put in fine performances in Bhoot that fails to frighten
The first part of Bhoot, which is obviously a planned horror series with multiple instalments, is a decent film all round. But if you’re looking to get scared or creeped out, it will disappoint. The film only employs formulaic jump-scare tactics used in most films of this genre. What works for it is the emotional depth accorded to Prithvi (Vicky Kaushal) and the grief that ties him to the ship and its traumatic past. The acting is extremely good. Though the film’s visuals and horror elements aren’t particularly novel (hence, not frightening), Prithvi’s fear is quite palpable thanks to some brilliant work by Vicky Kaushal.
Director: Bhanu Pratap Singh
Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Ashutosh Rana, Bhumi Pednekar
The film’s strong suit is its empathetic exploration of loss and grief. The distressing parts of the narrative aren’t the ones involving a mysteriously docked and abandoned ship on the shores of Mumbai, but the poignant backstory of a mentally fragile man who can’t escape the loss of his wife and young daughter. He skips his psychiatric medication only to be able to see them in his visions. And the guilt for being unable to save them during a rafting accident (despite his wife’s repeated warnings) is what gets to you. You want them to reunite too, even if only in a haze of hallucinatory bliss.
Bhoot does a good job of linking Prithvi’s pain and suffering to that of Sea Bird’s (the ship) former inhabitants – especially, a young girl who mysteriously disappeared after the remaining members of the crew collectively committed suicide. The bureaucratic mess that Prithvi, his partner/friend Riaz, and the shipping department go through in order to deal with the derelict ship that washes ashore, is portrayed quite realistically.
If the supernatural elements were perhaps more subtle, this could have been a potentially excellent film. After all, psychological trauma provides for a perfect breeding ground when it comes to fear. The apparition’s early reveal (as early as the first few scenes) takes away from the overall impact of Bhoot. The most frightening sequences are Vicky Kaushal’s reactions to fearful and unexplained events, as opposed to the events themselves — a testament to the man’s acting abilities, no doubt, but it does not reflect well on the ingenuity of the writers. This goes back to the age-old dictum – that which cannot be seen has the power to scare you more than its opposite.
The cinematography achieves what the horror fails to – a massive, rusty metal container docked against the backdrop of a grey, brooding coast gives you an overall sense of unease. Even the interiors of the abandoned vessel are shot with such a sense of dread that you wish for the characters onscreen to get the hell out of there immediately.
Vicky Kaushal and the supporting cast put in believable performances for you to stay invested despite the subpar horror writing. The look on Riaz’s face when he — a complete sceptic when it comes to the haunted narrative of the ship — sees the apparition for himself, is priceless. Through multiple scenes he is unable to utter a word and has this dumbstruck expression. I can distinctly remember the audience bursting into peals of laughter as I joined them.
Bhoot: Part One – The Haunted Ship does a stellar job with the emotional depth of its lead character and his struggle with irreparable loss. It does well to make parallels of his trauma with the story of the ghost girl aboard the abandoned vessel. The elements of horror, though not entirely terrible, could have been more impactful. Only time will tell if the sequel addresses these issues adequately. One thing is above reproach, though – Vicky Kaushal is outstanding in his role.