What makes the film scary is the way it plays with your fears and your anxieties, says Prasanna D Zore.
Finally, horror films being made in India are actually spooky and scary.
The House Next Door, starring Siddharth, Andrea Jeremiah, Anisha Victor and Atul Kulkarni is the Hindi version of the Tamil horror film, Aval, which released last Friday.
With The House Next Door, director Milind Rau illustrates that horror films need not rely on scary, ugly faces, sudden noises and a loud background score to frighten the wits out of its audience.
While Rau does sparingly indulge in these gimmicks, he prefers to make you shudder in your seat with deft camera movements, some very scary close-up sequences and, of course, special effects which, again, Rau has used sparingly.
It is this treatment given to The House Next Door that gives you the heebie-jeebies.
And because Rau intentionally uses the special effects, the loud score and the ugly spirit's make-up so sparingly, The House Next Door retains its edge throughout its duration, unlike the Ramsay films of yesteryears that titillated viewers more than giving them the chills and frights.
The House Next Door is set in the year 2016. Siddharth (Dr Krishna Acharya, Krish, for short) plays a deep brain intervention surgeon happily married to his girlfriend, Laxmi (Andrea Jeremiah).
The first 15 minutes of the film make you wonder if it is really a scary movie or a romcom.
When the D'Souzas -- Atul Kulkarni (Paul), his father, his wife (Lizzy) and their two daughters, Jennifer/Jenny (Anisha Victor) and Sara -- move in next door, the film changes its mood and flavour.
Suddenly, the white Himalayan canvas makes way for the red, wood-panelled interiors of a sprawling mansion and story writers Siddharth and Rau get into the serious business of manufacturing horror.
As it happens in most horror films, the D'Souzas's villa is haunted and, as soon as the family begin the housewarming process, the frights begin to unfold.
The teenager, rebellious Jenny, jumps into a well outside the house and Siddharth, who happens to see the girl take the plunge, dives in to save her.
This is where the plot begins to concretise and continues to spook till just before the climax, as sequence after sequence brings you closer to a haunted reality.
In between, the story does bring in the usual elements of psycho analysis, black magic and exorcism as a psychologist, a maid, a priest and a tantrik gang up against the devil in the house.
What happens in the end is neither a big suspense nor a shock; there is no sudden turn or twist. What makes the film scary is the way it plays with your fears and your anxieties.
As for the cast, the chemistry between the madly-in-love Siddharth and Andrea is quite run-of-the-mill.
The best and the meatiest role goes to Anisha Victor, who makes you cringe when she is possessed by the evil spirit and gets your sympathy after returning to sanity.
The charming, beautiful and, at times vulnerable, Victor will definitely go places with Aval/The House Next Door.
Atul Kulkarni, as the father of a possessed teenager, looks uncomfortable; his dialogues don’t match his expressions but that, perhaps, could have happened when the film, originally made in Tamil, was dubbed in Hindi.
As for the climax, it’s clear that Rau and Siddharth are looking forward to a sequel.