Monday, June 29, 2009

One, Two, Shakaal's Coming For You

When I recently learned of the existence of a Bollywood version of Nightmare on Elm Street, I rearranged my Netflix queue faster than you rank the Freddy films based on enjoyability (for the record, it's 3-1-2-4-7-6-5; yes, I'm a sucker for homoeroticism, puppetry, and Kafka) and actual film quality (7-3-1-4-5-2-6) . An international Freddy Krueger + aggressively choreographed dance numbers? Did I eat some poisoned Cheerios this morning and end up on the right side of heaven?

Like most things in life, Mahakaal is a fairly obvious disappointment. Not eerie enough for actual scares, yet not quite kitchy enough for true cult status, this 1993 film succeeds in some sectors, spends way too much time in a lot of others, and then...well...ends. But hey, it also has a mulleted villain with a wicked laugh akin to the fat carrot-topped clown in Clownhouse and a moment or two or genuine tension.

Quick Plot: A group of college students--who reallllllly like picnics--discover that a scarred, giggling, and knife-nailed demon named Shakaal and his collection of haunted house prop skeletons are terrorizing them in their dreams. A romantic couples getaway turns deadly for one promiscuous young lady, while her boyfriend can only watch in horror as she writhes around the floor covered by non-helping hands (Jennifer Connelly might venture to call them 'hurting'). Yes, this is supposed to sound familiar. I haven’t even arrived at the water bed death, guilty father responsible for the puddy-scarred fiend’s fiery execution, or any of the other obvious borrowed goods from Wes Craven’s soon-to-be-rebooted franchise.

Since I’ve never watched a Bollywood film in its entirety, I figured an ‘adaptation’ of one of my very well-liked horror series would be a prime starting point to ease into the genre. In that regard, it was passable. I don’t know that I could have really survived 2 1/2 hours of stock sound effects, random closeups, and a screaming female protagonist had it not been so gleefully torn out of Craven's script. Unfortunately, the Westernization of Mahakaal is also its partial downfall. The songs (yes, there are songs) aren’t particularly spectacular by Bollywood standards and the demon’s muted characterization won’t induce many nightmares.

High Points
The score played during some of the earlier nightmare sequences is quite effective...probably because it was clearly ripped straight out of Craven’s walkman

Anita’s first nightmare featuring a giggling, eyeless ghost, actually will make you thoroughly unsettled

Low Points
I don’t have a problem with musical numbers. Heck, I’d give my right vocal chord if all Hollywood films incorporate some form of song-and-dance sequence (I’m nowhere near a good enough writer to express what a classic Terminator Salvation would have been had John Connor sashayed with Arnold amid the apocalyptic scenery), but one song about a picnic, one about being in love, and zero--zero!!! sung by or regarding the actual monster does not endear a film to my melodic heart

The 2 1/2 running tie is, to put it mildly, a tad long. Maybe one less verse about the wonder of picnics, one less misogynist leer from the horny villain, and ten less extreme closeups of Shakaal's yellow eyes could have shaved off 90 minutes or so

Lessons Learned
In some cultures, attempting to rape a young woman is a sign of disrespect

Indian Michael Jackson impersonating- watiers are useful to have on your side in barroom brawls

Dream demons punch with the same amount of force as female college students, grumpy policemen, and just about everyone else that gets angry on camera

When being hunted by a black magic practicing demon, always try to end up in his well-stocked and fully functional torture chamber

Incredibly enough, hurling potted plants at a supernatural monster does not cause any serious physical damage

Winning Line
During an attempted gang rape: “Let’s get you wet first.”
Although naturally, this means the would-be rapist just wants to squirt a hose over the heroine’s dress

Curiousity has led me down many a bad rental choice, but there are worse things one can do than attempt to slog through a Bollywood Freddy Krueger film (thank you for lowering the bar to bluishly bland depths, Moscow Zero). I don’t see an incredible amount of rewatchability here, and so I can't begin to recommend a buy, but if you're as temptable as me when it comes to bizarre horror, you can't judge yourself for giving it a (most likely unrewarding) try. You almost have to see it for the right to say, "Yes, I've seen the Bollywood Nightmare On Elm Street." You may even become the hero of your friends and envy of your enemies. Plus, Michael Jackson devotees--who seem to be emerging from Neverlandian cocoons in numbers that should make pet monkeys and Paul McCartney tremble with fear--may also find Mahakaal worth a watch to check out one MJ's mean moves with a lunch tray.


  1. Thank you for being one of the very few people outside of myself that appreciate Freddy's Revenge for its ahead of its time social commentary. It also has one of my all time favorite Freddy kills.

    And curiosity has led me down the path of many a bad movie viewing and I will once again take that trip for Mahakaal. I just can't resist.

  2. Might that kill have involved the world's worst PE teacher?
    I keep debating a purchase of part 2 to thoroughly dissect it. I caught it half awake a few years back and was blown away by the undertones. I used to rely on frequent re-airings on Monsters HD, but sadly, that time has passed. 2 is still a shitty movie, but once you pay attention, it really is a fascinating analogy of a young man struggling with his sexuality. Pair it with Fear No Evil for a totally awesomely bad double feature.

    And you know, you really can't resist the call of Bollywood. You'll be underwhelmed, but how can you NOT give it a try?

  3. "And you know, you really can't resist the call of Bollywood. You'll be underwhelmed, but how can you NOT give it a try?"


    You should just get the Nightmare box set. I only paid something like $40 for it and it is worth every penny. Has a ton of great extras including hours of behind the scenes stuff and all of the music videos which are just plain awesome.

    My favorite kill in Nightmare 2 is when Freddy comes out of Grady's is still kickass even today. I also LOVE when Freddy attacks what’s her names pool was so cool seeing Freddy menacing a large group of people in the real world.

    I've often thought of watching Freddy's Revenge again and posting a huge blog sticking up for the film since so many hate on it. I have watched the film (along with all the Nightmare films) at least 40 times and it is not a perfect movie, but those homosexual undertones are quite fascinating. I never caught on to them until maybe a few years ago since I was too young to read between the now very obvious lines. There is a lot of meaning to the film and if you watch and really analyze it, it is very impressive and very ballsy to use Freddy Krueger as a metaphor or representation of Jesse's inner gay lust. It's not a great film in many ways, but at the same time, it is brilliant in many other ways. Not something you would expect from a horror film sequel.

    I'm gay for Nightmare 2!

  4. Totally. I definitely support you giving Nightmare 2 a thorough analyzation. Is there a commentary track? Once I get the boxed set, we should team up for some deep probing.