Writer & Director : Patrick Graham
Co-director : Nikhil Mahajan
Cast – Vineet Kumar Singh, Aahana Kumra, Suchitra Pillai Malik
Rated: 2.5/5 stars
Have you been waiting for a long time to see something extremely spooky and ghostly? Have you had expectations that India too is able to produce something like ‘Walking Dead’ or ‘Haunting of Hill House’ someday? Well, keep your expectations confined within yourself, because it is not happening soon.
Netflix’s Betaal started streaming today in a bid to give you something to binge on especially on the weekend and though the story is okayish on the gripping side, it will surely not get you enthused to talk about it with your group.
Betaal is set in the backdrop of an estranged village where a set of military troop is given a mission to extricate the civilians, as the contractor wants to build a road to connect the village with the city for “development” of the country. But the community living in this village unerringly opposes them and believes that the Betaal mountain is cursed, so they guard in order to stop the military troop to enter the space. With unfortunate events that follow, the military is commanded to shoot those villagers, (who they term to be insurgents). When the villagers guarding the mountain are dead, the entrance to the tunnel is open; which then unleashes the curse of betaal on the troop. The rest of the narrative is an act between the Baaz Troop and the butchery Zombies.
Betaal is four episodes long, and it gives an edge to this series as one would stick around to binge-watch it. Though zombies in films are as old as the mountains the film is set in, this time the zombies were equipped with special powers which amazed me. Besides the usual grotesque bulging-red eyes, this time they were armed as well! The series came across as an amalgamation of mythology and history and it brought some memorable war scenes filmed to my memory. Betaal’s metaphor-ridden script tries to showcase the ugly side of military troops especially when they don’t think twice before killing innocent civilians. Greed, is what this show poses in the forefront, Besides greed, it also touches upon the sentiments and psychology of the viewer. The usual jump scares, screaming noises and some creepily disturbing blood-bathed scenes are all a part of the narrative.
Vineet Singh Kumar as Vikram was very convincing in the required scenes. Aahana Kumra, with a burnt scar on the face played along with the story. Her acting is unquestionable and she looked perfectly settled in her character of a brave woman soldier. Jitendra as contractor came across someone whom we can easily hate, and Suchitra with her mastery over skills made her a strong lead in this series. Though, I strongly believe that Betaal wasn’t able to explore the potential that each of its cast possessed.
The writer director, Patrick who has directed ‘Ghoul’, just crammed too many things in this series, which simply couldn’t handle the burden of it all! I am still left with questions in my head about what I saw. The conceptualization and story is well thought of but the execution is where things go south. Not to forget, the dialogues too are weak.
Having said that, the efforts put on set designing surely is commendable. The big creaky house, rusty old doors, cracked basins and closed rooms looked and felt claustrophobic, which worked in favour of the visual narrative. Though the whole series is shot in the dark, thankfully, it’s not black everywhere.
All in all, Betaal does use the popular Indian folklore Vikram Betaal’s generic idea in the plot, it is a treat for those who were on the lookout for an action-thriller. But people who crave for nightmarish horror flicks, have to pass this series as ‘just another’, which missed the mark of being categorised in the horror genre. In a attempt to make us scream, this series just gives you horrific images of gore and nauseating blood shed.