Director: Vivy Kathiresan
Cast: Ramana, Varsha Bollamma, Aishwarya Gowda
Why do so many first-time directors think it's easy to start their career with a horror movie? Is it the limited budget? Usually set in one or two locations for a majority of screen time, and with fewer actors, horror might seem like an easy genre to begin with.
Or, is it because of how well it can work as a showreel for future projects? Mainstream horror films are rarely about the writing. They are mostly about how well one can direct the same-old vengeful ghost story through new characters for a spook every five minutes using one's craft and editing.
Vivy Kathiresan, the director of Mane Number 13, seems to be going for the latter. The makers assume that a series of upside-down shots, jump scares and a never-ending lineup of twists would suffice for a reasonably entertaining horror movie. But, can flashy making cover up the flaws of a screenplay that seems too redundant, even for a spoof? And how many twists are too many before a film starts becoming a joke? Like the boy who cried wolf, there's only a certain number of times a film can pull the carpet from under you. At a time when films use deception cleverly to trick the viewer into believing certain things, here's a film that blatantly lies to create the same effect.
But more than the writing, it's the clichés that get to you first. From a random swing and a scary doll to an Ouija board and a grandfather clock, this haunted-house movie tries desperately to become a mix-tape of the dozens of movies we've seen in this genre. Even the characters are clichés. The leader leads, the two girls howl and scream, the random guy dies a couple of times and the fat guy eats a lot and farts even more. There's not a single shot that seems original, neither is there a moment of any real vision needed for this genre.
Except, of course, for the WTF moments. When a character gets two of his fingers chopped off, another character calls out asking for a band-aid, of all things, to hold things together. Earlier, a psychotic artist's eccentricity involves him painting all over women before he sleeps with them. A couple of scenes later, the head of a missing person is seen inside a washing machine, spinning around like a record.
We never sense any tension. We don't even see a genuine effort from these characters to get out of the house. It's like they know they are in a B-grade horror movie and try to behave accordingly. You can't blame them, because there are only a few hundred ways an actor can deliver the lines, "I'm getting very scared". The effect the makers were going for was horror. They have to settle for horrible, though!