Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Frankie Goes To Bollywood (Capsule Review)

Year: 1981
Director: Shyam & Tulsi Ramsay
Cast: Vijay Arora, Bindiya Goswami, Birbal
Run Time: 2 hours 5 minutes

Plot: After businessman Girdharila is murdered by his cousin Dhanpat Rai, he himself is murdered. Girdharila's daughter Sapna and her lover investigate, as people at Dhanpat Rai's mansion begin to die one by one.

Analysis: A note: This film was only accessible to me in unsubtitled Hindi, so there are huge swaths of plot I had no way of understanding. As such, this review will focus on visuals and atmosphere, of which the film doesn't offer much to chew on. This film was directed by the Ramsay brothers, who previously collaborated on the Bollywood slasher Saboot, which focused on the murder, revenge, and general drama between people fighting for control of a family-run mill. This film continues to be a meditation along those lines, adding a heavy dose of Bollywood family drama to the first half of what ends up being a pretty standard slasher setup.

Unfortunately the first half is aesthetically unpleasing, so if it succeeds anywhere, it must be the script that I couldn't understand. Every scene is presented with flat, even lighting and a tendency to keep the scene in a master shot wherever possible. The initial musical number is also desperately bland, as the romantic leads flail their arms around in the rain. The only thing that livens up this part of the film are the brief moments where the Sapna seems to hallucinate a much better movie, with musical dream sequences including dancing skeletons, a ghostly disco, and a surf rock breakdown.

Thankfully the second half is a lively bit of slasher mayhem. There are some solid kills, including a Saw-esque trap where a man is hooked up to fuse box that electrocutes him when somebody comes into the room and turns on the light switch. There's also a faux-Argento touch that involves a stabbed woman falling into a bathtub and sloshing sudsy water all over the floor. The kills come thick and fast for a brief period that did win me over to the film's side, though it was still a hell of a slog to get to them in the first place.

Killer: I honestly have no idea
Final Girl: Sapna
Best Kill: A woman has a noose slung around her neck and she is instantly dragged into the air and hanged from a tall tree.
Sign of the Times: The fact that after Saboot was a failure as a slasher, they went right ahead and made another one the next year.
Scariest Moment: The hostel seems to be run by a Torgo-esque figure in a blazer and no shirt.
Weirdest Moment: Did I mention the dancing skeleton surf rock number?
Champion Dialogue: N/A
Body Count: 8; this number is probably off by at least one, because I have a sneaking suspicion that one late kill is just a flashback retelling of a kill that occurred earlier.
    1. Girdharila is thrown off a balcony.
    2. Dhanpat Rai is killed offscreen.
    3. Woman is stabbed in the back.
    4. Man is electrocuted.
    5. Woman #2 is hanged from a tree.
    6. Man #2 killed by trees or something.
    7. Woman #3 is shot.
    8. Sombrero Man Who Might be Dhanpat Rai in Flashback is strangled.
TL;DR: Sannata is a passable slasher by the standards of the Ramsay brothers, but those are pretty low standards.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 566

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