Kaali Khuhi Movie Review: A tepid tale with hardly any thrills
With sparse scares and lacklustre reveals, the only saving grace of Kaali Khuhi lies in the towering performances and strong technical aspects
There can be no second thoughts about horror being the most overutilised genre in Indian cinema. We’ve seen a variety of supernatural beings inhabit random people at random places in random timelines. Filmmakers and audiences are drawn to the genre because, when done right, these films appeal to the greatest enemy in us — fear. But, only very rarely do we get a horror film that scores high on thrills and chills, and has a decent narrative to boot. Sadly, Netflix's Kaali Khuhi is definitely not one such.
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Leela Samson, Sanjeeda Shaikh, Riva Arora
Director: Terrie Samundra
Streaming on: Netflix
The film begins on a rainy day. There is gloom all over, and the downpour makes things worse. A freak incident near a well lets a spirit loose in a village in Punjab. Many a time, it is the 'why' of a vengeful spirit that drives a horror film. In Kaali Khuhi, even though the 'why' is grave enough, it doesn’t really drive this 90-minute film.
The synopsis of this Netflix film alone would act as a spoiler. Not affected by this disadvantage, the writers of Kaali Khuhi inexplicably play their cards a bit too early and reveal the central conceit. What’s the point of building suspense when everyone knows what exactly is happening, and why people are spitting black blood and dying.
Despite having no sense of real suspense or dread, thankfully, the film doesn’t resort to cheap thrills. The film takes its time to set up each scare and each reveal. However, since the scares are sparse and the reveals are not riveting, Kaali Khuhi’s only saving grace is the towering performances and the strong technical aspects.
On the technical front, it is cinematographer Sejal Shah who comes up trumps with his superior work. Shrouding the screen with fog and limited lighting creates the only mystery in this horror film. Apart from this, there is very little else in Kaali Khuhi. We don’t see any other villagers except Shabana Azmi and co, and because of this, there is no real tension that builds outside this family. So making this curse something that engulfs the entire village seems outlandish and redundant.
Nevertheless, the performances of these principal characters do stand out. The experience of Shabana Azmi is complemented by the earnestness of young Riva Arora. The steely helplessness of Sanjeeda Shaikh stands as tall as the evilness of Leela Samson.
Kaali Khuhi does have its heart in the right place. It has a very compelling message. It also manages a few scares here and there, and reminds us how fear in real life is much more real than fear of the supernatural. But, at the end of the day, Kaali Khuhi falls short on the one thing that’s most important in cinema — being engaging… and that’s one unforgivable curse.