The views are great, but the rent will kill you
Part of the fun of doing 365 Days of Horror is to watch horror movies that I have been meaning to see for a long time, but just haven't found the time. The other part is discovering new movies that I may not know about. With unknown movies also comes foreign horror movies. The United States and Japan have been the biggest exporters of horror, but other countries are starting to catch up. I have reviewed horror from South Korea, Italy, and Norway. Now how about a movie from a country better known for their musical numbers and bright costumes than horror. I'm talking about India.
13B (originally known as Yavarum Nalam, with a slightly different cast) is a 2009 Indian horror film. There are two versions, one in Tamil and one in Hindi. The movie stars R.Madhaven as Manohar, an upper-middle class man who has just spent his life savings moving his entire family into a new condominium numbered 13B. Little things go wrong in the apartment, such as curdling milk and Manohar's cell phone taking warped pictures, but they are mostly ignored. The women in the house love their serial soap operas and become hooked on a new show called Sab Khairiyat (Everyone Is Well, or Everything's Fine depending on which version you watch). The show is eerily similair to Manohar's family, down to the same number/gender of family members. As the show unfolds, Manohar realizes that the show is mirroring and even predicting his life. As bad things occur in the show, such as the main character's wife having a miscarriage, so do does Manohar's wife Priya have a miscarriage. He receives help from his friend Shiva, a police officer, in trying to unravel what is going on. Manohar visits the television station that broadcasts the show, but the show being filmed under the same name is completely different. He discovers a photo album that was buried outside the condominium containing pictures of the family acting in the show. With Shiva's help, Manohar discovers that the family had been brutally massacred with a hammer and their mentally handicapped brother had been arrested. They seek the help of Dr. Shinde, the same doctor that saved Manohar's mother. Shinde believes in ghosts and the spiritual world and tries to help him out. Manohar witnesses the next episode of the serial, showing a man carrying a hammer. The man is revealed to be Manohar himself. What does this all mean and what will happen to his family?
Just because you have a haunted house doesn't mean you should wear a pink shirt
I don't know much about Indian cinema beyond Bollywood movies. They are certainly different from what Westerners are used to, but they have a certain fun charm that we seriously lack. The fun part about watching foreign horror is to see all the cultural differences. In 13B, there is focus on the apartment's prayer room, where pictures mysteriously cannot be hung. That is not a common thing in American homes, but I was still able to pick up on it's importance. The movie doesn't go too in-depth with cultural information or rituals, so I never felt lost or out of place. One thing I did find funny was that the characters spoke in Hindi, but occasionally American slang or entire sentences in English would be uttered by the actors. I know this is common, but it's still funny to hear. There are two music numbers in the movie and one during the credits. From their perspective, they probably fit perfectly, but from an American perspective, they are a little out of place. There were no extravagant dance scenes, so I should be thankful.
What 13B lacks in scares it more than makes up for in suspense. Much like the soap operas it is poking fun at, 13B has many cliff hangers, keeping the audience at the edge of our seats. The mystery of the condominium is solid and kept me interested throughout the 2 plus hour run-time. The movie has good social commentary on our love of television. Some Americans may think that we do not get obsessed with silly television, but just look at garbage like Jersey Shore or Real Housewives of Whatever. The people involved with those shows have no talent, but they're all celebrities because people watch their terrible “reality” shows. I did get a laugh out of the serial's title and it's theme music, repeatedly saying “Everything's fine.” It was a clever touch. The acting is good and while there is little in the way of action, it still has thrills and twists. The movie's premise and story would fit in well with The Twilight Zone.
It's refreshing to see a different country put out a quality horror movie. 13B is told in it's own voice without catering to Western horror movies. It has loads of suspense, aided by good acting and solid horror music. It has a few jolts, but it isn't very scary. The story, while not completely original, is creative enough to keep things interesting with it's old-school horror feel. I wouldn't be surprised if 13B gets remade for an American audience in the near future. It would be a good fit. Well, maybe not the singing and dancing.