Rating: Two stars:
Some years ago, Mumbai had witnessed the strange sight of a ship running aground at Juhu Beach. Bhanu Pratap Singh saw the potential for horror in an abandoned liner and made Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship (Part 1 because it is meant to be the first of a horror franchise). The idea could also be traced to Steve Beck’s 2002 horror movie, Ghost Ship.
The film opens with Prithvi (Vicky Kaushal) rescuing a bunch of girls from a shipping container, for which he is derided by his friend and boss for exceeding his brief. This has nothing to do with the rest of the film. Soon, his shipping company is assigned to look into the mysterious appearance of a ship called Seabird on the Mumbai coast, and Prithvi gets obsessed with it to the extent of turning up in the dark to skulk around the rusting skeleton of the ship’s interior. There are some scary sights, sounds and a doll that seems to be the desi cousin of Hollywood’s Chucky. It falls upon his exasperated friend Riyaz (Akash Dhar) to always turn up to rescue Prithvi from his Seabird misadventures. Riyaz also scoffs at the commonly held belief that the ship is haunted.
It is revealed that Prithvi suffers from the guilt and grief of losing his wife (Bhumi Pednekar in a guest appearance) and daughter in a drowning accident. He hallucinates, has nightmares and refuses to take his medications—all of which does not explain his solitary wandering in the ship with a flashlight.
At some point, Prithvi is introduced to Dr Joshi (Ashutosh Rana), who is a scientist, bereavement counsellor and exorcist rolled into one; he goes about with a device that could be a spirit detector, and when need be, can chant mantras as well as the next tantrik. Vicky Kaushal wears one glum look, which does not differentiate between sorrow and dread.
The production and sound design (that ominous ticking is goosebumpy) are excellent and up to a point the jump scares work, then the writing lets down the film, which sinks into a ridiculous bedlam. Horror films do not have to conform to conventional reasoning, and demand complete suspension of disbelief, but Bhoot stretches even this flexible logic to breaking point. From being mildly spooky, it becomes unintentionally comical. Also, at 116 minutes it gets boring, since there is not enough plot or enough horror to justify the running time.