The Haunted Ship

Prithvi (Vicky Kaushal) is an officer with an organisation which oversees the coming and going of ships. At the start of the film, we see him rescuing illegal immigrants from a container at Mumbai port. Why he dies it alone and not without the help of the police isn’t explained. Later, we see him suffering from guilt as he had lost his child and wife to a boating accident. He suffers from hallucinations about the same which increase when he doesn’t take his pills. Meanwhile, a huge cargo ship with no one onboard gets stranded on Mumbai’s Juhu beach. It falls on Prithvi and his fellow officers to get it towed off safely. He starts experiencing paranormal activity while inspecting the ship. Worse, the ghost seems to have followed him home. He investigates the phenomenon further with the help of a scientist Professor Joshi (Ashutosh Rana) who dabbles in the paranormal. The rest of the film has him deciphering clues as to what happened to the crew of the stranded ship and whether there actually is a ghost haunting it.

The film boasts of superior production values. It defies belief that the interior of the ship is actually a huge set. The environs of an abandoned ship are claustrophobic indeed. You do feel a chill running down your spine when you see the protagonist moving around the spooky holds and passages with nothing but torchlight to guide him. Add to it some jump cuts, a doll which appears and disappears, and something which looks like a girl but can creep up on ceilings on all fours and you have all the ingredients needed for a cracking horror film.

And it all stands true in the first half at least. In the second half, the writing takes a sudden turn for the worse. The explanations about why the ship was stranded for close to ten years, what happened to its crew, and the reasons behind a ghost haunting it are ludicrous, to say the least, and eat into the film’s impact. Then, for a horror film, it’s not gory enough. Not enough people die. And the deaths aren’t messy. The ghost too has a set of standard tricks up its sleeve which become predictable after a while.

The Haunted Ship

Vicky Kaushal has tried hard to keep your interest awake in the film through his histrionics. The problem is that he doesn’t have anyone to play off to. The portions with Bhumi Pednekar are too few indeed. Though there’s a scene where her expressions do give you the chills. Wish there was more of that. Ashutosh Rana doesn’t quite cut it as a paranormal activist while Prithvi’s best friend and fellow shipping officer (Akash Dhar) too doesn’t get many confrontation scenes to be the straight guy to his ‘I see dead people’ character. Applying more efforts in the writing department would have turned it into a genuinely scary movie. It’s said to be the first part so let’s hope director Bhanu Pratap Singh learns from the mistakes and does a better job while bringing out the instalment.

STORY: A young shipping officer Prithvi (Vicky Kaushal) grappling with a massive personal loss, takes it upon himself to unravel the mysteries of a haunted ship. Will he live to tell the tale?

REVIEW: Based on a true incident, the film begins with a chilling scene. As the film proceeds, debutant writer-director Bhanu Pratap Singh begins to tease us with flashes of the incident that led to Sea Bird becoming the dreaded haunted ship. He juxtaposes this with Prithvi’s poignant past. Solving Sea Bird’s mystery deaths gives Prithvi’s life a sense of purpose. Vicky Kaushal carries his character’s guilt and his new found mission with utmost honesty. The actor manages to deliver consistently despite a repetitive screenplay that puts him in the exact same situation, many times over. Bhumi Pednekar as Prithvi’s wife puts in a brief special appearance, while Ashutosh Rana’s character is too casually written to be taken seriously. Rana plays the learned professor Joshi, who moves around with what looks like an old voltmeter to chase away the ghost. When that fails, he even ends up chanting mantras.

Generally, the horror films have a few hallmarks to effectively scare its audience. These include well-timed jumpscares, an alarming background score, believable computer graphics (CGI) and make-up (wherever required) that makes the characters look genuinely scary. But the make-up here ends up making the characters look unintentionally funny, rather than scary. The film manages to throw in a few terrifying moments while keeping the background score subtle. The CGI often gives away even as the cinematography is consistently dark to create the eerie atmospherics. But all of this is in service of a story that doesn’t stay afloat for long.

While the film’s runtime is short, the pace seems exhausting because most of the scenes are concluded abruptly, leaving you waiting for the big reveal. However, the all-important backstory isn’t convincing enough to make your wait worth it. For a horror film, ‘Bhoot Part One the Haunted Ship’ falls short of sending chills down your spine. At best, it can give you a few spooks.

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