Pari and the Teething Baby that is Pakistani Horror

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Screen-grab from Pari's official trailer

The prospect of going to watch a horror movie excites me a lot more than most people. I relish the palpable tension, admire the set up to the scare and thrive off the adrenaline rush. My intrinsic response to getting scared is laughter. I laugh more during horror films than most comedies. My maniacal laugh has scared others around me more than the actual films at times. So it’s safe to say I love horror. To that, add the prospect of a Pakistani horror movie and you get a film that I couldn’t pass on. And to think I almost went and watched Maan Jao Na instead.

Almost, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Pari, though far from the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock and James Wan, creates hope for what Pakistani horror can be. And that is, good entertainment. However, there is still a long way to go, for Pakistani horror to break bounds and achieve Hitchcock-level brilliance. Bounds which currently bind Pari very tightly. But like with any teething baby, there is both hope and room for growth here. My score: 5/10.

BAM!

From Pari’s Official Trailer

Scared you didn’t I? Anyways, this me reminding you that there are spoilers ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

When The Monsters Come Out to Play (Kind of)

As usual let’s start with what I liked, nay loved about Pari. The direction, for the most part. Director Syed Atif Ali has managed to create a palpable sense of tension throughout the film. Part of the draw of a good horror movie is its ability to create a sense of anticipation and dread. Pari does just that. In the moments leading up to a scare, the entire cinema was quiet. And that resulted in a few good scares.

However, the director would also kill this very sense of anticipation with largely hilarious scares. Hilarious not because of bad effects. The effects are largely okay until the climax, when they get closer to the Bollywood brand of cheesy horror. The scares however, were either too predictable, not scary enough or so incredibly clichéd. All the effect of the anticipation is ultimately lost. There really was only one point when I was actually scared. And that was when the entity possessing the titular ‘Pari appears before Mehwish in the mirror.

From Pari’s Official Trailer

That scare was sudden, effective and a one-off.

Something that I will praise Pari for is the mystery it creates around the main antagonist of the film. The devil, or demonic entity, that reanimates and inhabits the tragically killed child. While the film does show us what this entity could be, it never really, fully shows it to us. It always appears in the form of either Pari herself, or a dark hooded entity. It never comes to the forefront until the climax. Though the events leading up to the climax are pretty messy.

 

Pakistani Horror…The Musical?

Just like the direction, the story is also inconsistent. It ranges from engaging, to self aware, to cheesy, to formulaic. There are times where it’s brilliant. It foreshadows events to come. It shows us things that you’d expect to see in a horror film. And it uses them in the plot later on. The problem is that it shows you what you’d expect to see. Such as ‘666’ on the birthday cake (6/6/2016). And Pari cutting an upside down star onto that cake, only for us to find out that that child is the devil’s spawn.

But for all the clichés and the tropes used, Syed Atif Ali does create a uniquely Pakistani narrative in combating these evil forces. That is, by way of using Muslim practices. Hopefully that helps the audience connect. I particularly enjoyed the use of the Namaz-e-Janaza as a means to finally defeat the demon.

What didn’t work in my opinion was the music. Where Parchi was a step forward, not allowing the songs to drive the film, this is a step back. There are four songs and at least three feel completely unnecessary. To set this industry apart from Bollywood, and allow it to transcend that image, we need to realize something. That, all movies don’t need to be musicals.

This is especially true for Pakistani horror films. I’ll admit this was better than all the movies that Bollywood calls horror movies. But it’s dangerously close to falling into that category.

 

And The Verdict Is

For every thing that I liked about Pari, there was something that I didn’t. That’s why my score is what it is. But I strongly urge people to go out and watch it for yourself. Who knows, you might like it more than me? And, more importantly Pakistani horror needs our support.

Movies like this rarely make bank or have large budgets because producers and investors don’t believe in them. They feel that we as an audience are not receptive of such media, yet the cinema I was in was nearly full. If we truly want our film industry to grow, we need to support it. So what if a film gets a bad review? We should still go and decide for ourselves. Except Arth, don’t watch that to yourself.

Anyways, by doing this, at least filmmakers and investors know what we as an audience want and that gets made. Pakistani cinema currently is a teething baby, the horror genre even more so. It deserves the chance to grow and I hope we can all give it that.

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