Horror evangelism

Daniyal Zahid watches in horror as the Pakistani film industry ventures into horror

Horror evangelism
Truth be told Pari’s trailer had everyone excited. Initially the film’s release was going to coincide with Halloween 2017, and if nothing else the release date alone would have been reason enough to go watch Pakistan’s very own horror production.

That very billing, a ‘Pakistani horror movie’ on its own was pretty luring. Some say it’s the very first local film of the genre, probably discounting many of its predecessors as unintentionally scary – primarily for the producers. But it is true that Pari is indeed (one of) the first Pakistani horror film(s), most definitely of the (latest leg of the) seemingly infinite revival of the local film industry.

Another interesting coincidence was how a Bollywood film of the exact same name – and genre – is supposed to release within a month of Pari. This has just created the conspiracy theory, right here, that this was a deliberate ploy by the filmmakers to bring cinema-goers to their movie’s screening, mistaking it for the Anushka Sharma starrer.

For, the first of its kind or not, a trailblazer for Pakistan or not, Anushka Sharma or not, Pari was an unmitigated disaster at just about every scale that gauges any human experience – in fact the film, might have created levels previously unheard of just so it could implode in those particular realms.

Considering that it was among the very first proper forays into horror that the Pakistani film industry has embarked upon, literally everyone going to watch the movie – including those that later discover that it’s not the same Pari– is watching the film with asterisk-tinted glasses, ready to bestow the benefit of the doubt whenever they might spring up.

Even so, till about the final 30 minutes of the movie nothing much happened that one could really doubt – what transpired was the stalest, the most predictable foreplay you would have witnessed on the big screen.

Mehwish (Azekah Daniel), Shehram (Junaid Akhtar), and their daughter Pari (Khushi Maheen) move into a new house in Ayubia, which turns out to be haunted. Yes, a very typical, but forgivable, setting for the even more predictable supernatural events that continue to take place at the house.

As a rule, one wouldn’t give out anything that would constitute a spoiler for those that would eventually, some point in their lives, end up watching – or enduring – the film in question. But in Pari’s case there isn’t much there that hasn’t already been spoiled by the filmmakers.

The film takes its billing of being the ‘very first’ Pakistani horror film too literally, by imitating decades-old movies of the same genre and going down the religion route. There is the nonbeliever – and not just one who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but one doesn’t believe in any form of the divine – there is the shaitaan and there is the deeni totka to fix everything.

And then there is the conversion of the sceptic to not just a believer, but one that embraces rituals to take on the devil.

The film could’ve been forgiven for horror evangelism and using the religion card had it had anything else to plant a foot on. However, it reduces itself to a self-aggrandising stalemate for atheists, irreligionists and simultaneously – it seems – to everyone who doesn’t seem to believe in ghosts.
The film takes its billing as the 'very first' Pakistani horror film too literally, imitating decades-old movies of the same genre and going down the religion route

The film, one would have to suggest unintentionally, seems to equate belief in the divine with that in the supernatural – something that could’ve worked in the 1970s – and definitely does not in 2018, even in Pakistan.

When the religion card fails in this country, you know you haven’t offered any straws that one could clutch.

Pari is a daring watch, if there ever was one. It takes horror to such frightening levels, there might be a cult named after it in the decades to come.

Unfortunately, that cult too might be mistaken for the Anushka Sharma starrer set to release in March, which can never match its Pakistani counterpart even if every single person involved in that film dedicated their life’s purpose to that very end.