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13B

Rating: 2

March 06, 2009

Cast: R Madhavan, Neetu Chandra, Poonam Dhillon

Director: Vikram Kumar

The ominously titled supernatural film 13B has a smart premise involving a joint family of eight moving into a plush new apartment where strange, inexplicable things begin to happen to its residents, pretty much duplicating the events and dramatics of a new television soap that the ladies of this house are addicted to. So if a character on the show is involved in a mishap, you can be sure a similar accident will occur with a family member at home.

Oddly enough, only one member of the family – the character played by R Madhavan – seems to notice this striking coincidence even though it’s staring them all in the face. When these incidents become more and more fatal, Madhavan enlists the help of his police officer buddy and immerses himself into finding the truth.

Right away 13B sucks you into its drama because it’s set in an urban, middle-class neighborhood, and is treated like the kind of tragedy that could happen to just about anyone. Unlike your typical Bollywood horror film, there are no abandoned mansions here, none of that tantric mumbo-jumbo we’ve come to associate with paranormal stories.

Cleverly, director Vikram Kumar uses everyday appliances like mobile phones and television sets and even the automatic elevator as tools to spook you. And yet, although it’s appropriately chilling in its early set-up scenes, 13B doesn’t deliver more than a few good scares. The film trudges on and on lethargically for as long as two-hours-and-thirty-minutes, fracturing the narrative with unnecessary songs and even some pointless melodrama in its second half.

What could have been a nerve-racking suspense turns out to be a predictable thriller ultimately.

Of course, what separates a good thriller film from an ordinary one is sharp writing. When you’ve finished watching a thriller and you go over it in your mind retracing every step with the suspense now revealed, you should be able to see how cleverly the surprise ending was withheld from the audience. Try The Sixth Sense, for example.

13B, however, is the kind of convenient thriller where you do get a twist ending, but the kind in which anything goes. The logic behind the twist and the back-story to the supernatural premise is so convoluted, it’s hardly clever.

PC Sreeram’s photography lends an eerie chill, and he does it without resorting to the excess use of darkness. There’s also some credible acting from Madhavan and Neetu Chandra who plays his unsuspecting wife.

Still, the film is at best an average thriller, not least because it leaves a dozen questions unanswered and the viewer overcome with fatigue. Two out of five for director Vikram Kumar’s 13B. Sadly it tires you more than it scares you; it’s hardly what I’d call a must-watch.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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