Direction: Vikram Bhatt
Actors: Emraan Hashmi, Bipasha Basu, Esha Gupta
What do film stars with waning mojos do when they fail to win awards? Swig whisky on the rocks and wallow in self-pity? Raaz 3’s megalomaniac, mantra-reciting, tacky-costume-wearing heroine Shanaya (Bipasha Basu) plays out those clichés, in front of a giant photograph of herself no less, before she seeks out the devil. But instead of the sell-your-soul-for-wishes route, she walks the twisted path — spook out the new girl (Esha Gupta as Sanjana) who’s taking your place. A totally foolproof plan, if there were just two actresses left in the world. Then again, logic and character motivation aren’t really the cornerstones of a Vikram Bhatt film. So, the ‘aatma’ called Tara Dutt (Manish Choudhary wearing too much kohl) agrees to help her, for no apparent reason. Maybe he runs a dial-an-aatma service, who knows? After reciting some gibberish that sounds vaguely Arabic, he hands her a jar of evil water that will be Sanjana’s nemesis.
But the water must be given by a ‘bharosewala aadmi’. Enter Bhatt boy Emraan Hashmi, who’s made a career of kissing and effortlessly seducing on-screen babes. This time he plays film director Aditya, who seems to aid Shanaya in her evil plan in exchange for sex. In one of the most unintentionally funny moments in the film, Shanaya takes her shirt off, stands over him, and with the camera focused on her assets, asks him to look into her eyes. Right. With the evil water administered, the horror finally begins: Sanjana has nightmares in which voices and choking hands come out of the TV (The Ring, anyone?); she is chased by a clown in an empty studio; and a maid drives giant shards of glass into her own body.
The theory of the water causing hallucinations would be perfectly credible. But logic is killed and hanged from a fan when Aditya also sees the paranormal forces.
It all goes downhill from there, with love, revenge and blackmail mixed up with aatma-rescuing priests, phone-using zombies (yes, here they speak) and a Matrix-like world of spirits you can go in and out of. At one point, it feels like someone put the script for another Murder sequel in the blender with horror set pieces.
But you might forgive all of this in a horror film with impressive visual effects and scary make-up. Unfortunately, the grunting ghost covered in maggots belongs in a Ramsay Brothers franchise (they had less technical help in the ’80s) and the computer graphics imagery, or CGI, appears dated. The 3D is up to the mark (it’s not the dark, upconverted variety), but just ends up taking the tackiness to another level. As usual, Bipasha gets to show more skin than acting prowess, but is startlingly better than Esha, who competes with cleavage but forgets to emote altogether. Add to that every available cliché in the book — Ganpati to the rescue, ganga jal as a weapon — and it’s more likely to scare you away than scare you.