Director Vikram Bhatt has an uncanny knack for blending divinity and cheap-thrill horror. So in Raaz, he tacked on the legend of Satyavaan and Savitri to the serviceable Hollywood flick What Lies Beneath and created a blockbuster.
Viewers applauded loudly at the notion that the Bhartiya Nari can go to any lengths to save her husband, including warring with an evil spirit. In 1920, we have a role reversal on the same concept. Here the husband finds his faith and saves his wife from an evil spirit.
There is a lot in 1920 that is downright silly. To begin with, we have a mansion in Yorkshire posing as a haveli in Palanpur. So the geography varies from scene to scene - we switch from wet, misty green fields with Gypsy horses to mud houses with peasants in colorful Gujarati dress-without explanation or pause.
The backstory about why this haveli is inhabited by the ghost who stalks is laugh-out loud funny - unintentionally of course. I cannot reveal the twist but it involves a very unique personal sacrifice for the Indian independence movement. Then of course there's the usual foolishness of horror films - even when his wife is stuffing her face with the flesh of a cat, the husband believes the medical doctor's advice that its merely a personality disorder.
But if you're willing to seriously suspend disbelief, 1920 provides mildly diverting entertainment.
Unlike Phoonk, this one has some genuinely scary moments. I jumped when a phonograph and later a mosquito net came to life. Bhatt uses the tropes of horror - creaking doors, eerie background music, long, lonely corridors - effectively.
His leading lady, debutant Adah Sharma, is a vapid presence until she becomes possessed. Then she lets loose her inner Linda Blair from Exorcist and becomes pretty terrifying, climbing walls and killing people.
The hero, Rajneesh Duggal tries hard to match her histrionics but stays largely stiff. Even in moments of high melodrama, in which he rages against his fate without blinking once, he remains oddly wooden.
Actually, the real hero of this film is the house. It's vast, gloomy and superbly creepy. 1920 is, as we say in Mumbai, time-pass. See it if you're in the mood for both laughs and chills.