Halloween special: How to make a spooky movie work

Evil entities, murder mysteries, tales of revenge and supernatural beings…ghost movies mix all these elements. Stick to the formulaic frightening essentials like flowing curtains, creaking doors, haunting music and a white-clad woman holding a candle, and listen to the echoing sounds of the cash registers clinking…

Tuck yourself safely under the covers before you press the play button. Peek through your fingers and listen hard through your closed ears. And get set to watch the horror movie you have saved for the day! With your windows shut tight, the curtains drawn and every door firmly bolted, walk down the predictable path candle flames flicker into nail-biting darkness and unseen evil takes a hideous form as thunder roars, lightning flashes and horror raises its ugly head. Here are some of the must-haves for any horror film a la Bollywood, even of the most bland and insipid kind….

 A woman in a white sari: She is a must and features in over a dozen hit horror films. An unidentifiable female figure clad in white, often holding a candle, gliding through empty rooms in an old, isolated haveli is a common vision in scary B-town films. She ignores human existence, but is smart enough to string them along so that curious characters follow her. More often than not, following her trail unravels the mystery of her past and we start stumbling upon scattered pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. From that emerges the central plot of the film.

Rattling windows and creaking doors: It could be just the breeze in real life, but in the reel one rattling windows and creaking doors mark the unholy arrival of evil. Rustling leaves, erratic lightning, elongated shadows and a profound silence shattered by a loud bang or a shrieking scream hails the arrival of the ghosties and ghoulies. Much like film stars, ghosts too need a dramatic welcome full of pomp and gusto.

Steamy sequences: A lot can pass off as horror in some low budget Hindi cinema. Sex sells big time if blended smartly into the main plot. It also acts as a crowd-puller. In an attempt to show how random sex with a beautiful stranger can get you in trouble, directors resort to well-disguised erotica. And this titillating stuff can be anything from a pelvic thrusting item song to a couple making out in a bathtub….until one of them transforms into a beastly ghost, displaying its true form. Out goes the flesh, in comes the blood and gore! Sex with a stranger, after all, is a smart ploy to propel a non-existent tale further.

Rape and revenge: It happens in horror movies all the time – leading ladies have to bear the atrocities inflicted upon them by sex-deprived, dirty-minded hooligans. And what follows is a well choreographed murder or suicide…and then a haunting come-back. Such over-the-top hysteria not only adds drama to the story, but also creates space in the script for the female ghost to take a long and bloody revenge!

Reincarnation: The story of a tortured soul lusting for vengeance has inspired many a filmmaker. Thanks to a collective faith in rebirth or reincarnation, the theme of whatever goes around comes around is perfect fodder for B-town horror films!