Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ludo – review

Directors: Qaushiq Mukherjee & Nikon

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

So, I’m looking for a horror film to watch – not a vampire film per se – and I spot Ludo on Netflix, an Indian horror film and I was intrigued for it was clear it was about a game but the game Ludo is clearly nothing like the game portrayed in Jumanji… Then it turns out to be a vampire movie… who knew. But as well as vampires we also get a vampiric game… yes siree.

However, the horror comes later on, it starts off as a frustrated youth film.

Ria and Payal
We meet Ria (Subholina Sen), who is getting ready to go out. Her mother (Kamalika Banerjee) is less than happy about this, given her daughter is dressing like a whore and clearly going out to party. Ria claims her father has given permission and when her mother refutes this Ria suggests he isn’t her father anyway. She pushes past her mother and meets her friend Payal (Ananya Biswas) on the building stairs. They get a rickshaw with her mother shouting out behind her. As they travel Ria realises she has left her phone at home.

Soumendra Bhattacharya as Pele
So the phone rings and Ria’s boyfriend Pele (Soumendra Bhattacharya) starts talking dirty… to her mother. The girls are going to meet Pele and his friend Babai (Ranodeep Bose). So the plan is go out, watch a band, get drunk and get a hotel. Things do not go to plan, there are altercations, bribery of cops with all their money (or face arrest for scooter riding under the influence) – luckily the girls still have money – and then being refused at every hotel (due to morality reasons). The film did very well at introducing the characters, however it failed singularly at making them sympathetic (though it may have meant to make them unsympathetic and deserving of their fate).

bloodied in the hotel
We don’t get the Bollywood style song and dance routines but we do get music (and some club dancing at one point) with the lyrics translated into the subs. At one point a song goes “Hungry for blood restless as f*ck” and “The Buildings they have fangs. They bite at night”. They try one last hotel but the receptionist pretty much blanks them, goes upstairs and the power goes. They go upstairs and look through a door to see a woman with blood round her mouth and someone else bloodied round the mouth. As they run Ria kicks a small bottle on the floor, spilling the blood inside. It is shot in a stylish way but it is absolutely style over any discernible substance.

getting frustrated
They go to a club. The very drunk Pele repeatedly asking what was going on in the hotel. There's a bit of a dance to a track, then the girls' frustration that they won’t get laid (despite a range of different flavoured condoms in Payal’s bag). Suddenly Payal has an idea of somewhere to go where they can have privacy and air conditioning… the mall! Yes, the mall, which is still open and then shuts with the kids in. Where they hid isn’t shown and why there is no monitored CCTV or security guards in the place is ignored. However they have the run of the place and mess around a bit.

it's all going wrong
Pele has left the bag with the booze and goes to get it. He is spooked in the empty building and hears a rattling (later we realise it is the rattling of dice) and has a flash to the hotel (tying the events together in a loose and non-satisfying shorthand). He goes back to his friends and an escalator starts on its own. All is forgotten, however, when he and Ria get it on. They are writhing on the floor when a hand grabs their hair. An old couple are there and Pele violently pushes the old man (Joyraj Bhattacharya), causing the old one-eyed woman (Rii) to scream. Babai pulls Pele away.

eating Babai's heart
So, it ends up with Payal going to the toilet and the old woman getting out a Ludo board. The other three sit round with her and seem to be in a trance. When Ria lands on Babai’s piece the old woman says she should eat him and Ria gives him a deep kiss (without Pele complaining). When the old woman lands on Babai’s piece she asks Ria whether she should eat him and… goes to kiss him, tears out his tongue, rips his torso open and eats his heart. This breaks the spell and the screaming others run (along with the returned Payal).

fangs on show
So, we get a bit of haunted lift action and the girls become separated from Pele in the lift. As he is being attacked by the man, the woman (who is now young and shows fangs) grabs the girls and tells them the story of the board – which is the majority of the rest of the film. So two siblings Mirumi and Kirama Irum (the old woman and man) used to play a game of find the game – which was in the care of their family. They work out how to get to the evil board and the board itself wants blood. Their father, an occultist (Murari Mukherjee), catches them having sex and curses them.

Tillotama Shome as Oshini
The question can then be asked, was it the evil board, the curse or the incest that caused the vampirism? The film doesn’t say but they can no longer eat human food, needing blood instead, and felt like their lives were drained. The board is cited as being evil, able to bring hallucinations and hungry for blood itself. The film then brings in a further player (pun intended) a shaman called Oshini (Tillotama Shome) who is a descendent of the family line and is turned also. To what effect, well it wasn’t certain and the structure of the film was odd.

fanged and bloody
The backstory section becomes the focus, when it could have been curtailed and used as backstory only. The fate of the youths is seen but is depressingly shortened as the film concentrates on backstory, losing the horror/thriller element that might have been developed. This is, of course, after having concentrated on building the characters for way too long. There is a lot of sporadic gore, and its well done, but the narrative was mishandled and the film felt like style over substance, but not a triumph thereof. As such it was watchable but ultimately too shallow to be 1) a substantial horror vehicle and 2) a good film.

It was interesting that the film used Ludo – a dice based game developed in England, rather than the more ancient and complex Indian game of Pachisi, which is played with cowrie shells and which Ludo is based on. The ominous view of the game being mass produced at the end is less ominous when you think that the game is already (in variants) played across the globe. However, it is an Indian vampire film. It has vampires and it has a vampiric board game. It gets points for that. It gets points for style also. It doesn’t get them for style over substance. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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