Rakkhosh (2019) – movie review

After watching Tumbbad, a horror-drama from India that I consider to be one of the best horror films of 2018, I became more intrigued by Indian cinema, especially if we talk about horror.

Thus, I was really glad to be able to watch Rakkhosh, a Netflix movie that is currently available only in India and Italy (for whatever reason), but hopefully will be on the platform in every country.

Though not as much critically acclaimed as Tumbbad, Rakkhosh has an interesting premise nonetheless: troubled by his past cycles of abuse (Birsa Sekhri), a prisoner in a mental asylum asks his best friend and his daughter to help him figure out why patients are disappearing around the facility, only to discover something even more sinister than what he believed is going on.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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This could easily be another horror-mystery, Shutter Island rip-off, but it sets itself apart in quite a few ways: for starters, Rakkhosh is entirely shot in first-person perspective (kind of found-footage style), which – for once – doesn’t feel like a gimmick. In fact, this way of filming the movie is integral to the storytelling, due to the fact that what Birsa Sekhri sees is what we get to know as an audience. In other words, Rakkhosh turns the viewer into the main character of the story. In this sense, the lack of any character development for Birsa seems intentional, as it gives the opportunity for the audience to project themselves onto a him.

Despite having an excuse for lazy cinematography and camera work, Rakkhosh is a really strong film in that department. The movie is rich in complex shot compositions, unnatural and almost surreal camera angles, inclusive frames that show multiple characters on screen at the same time, giving the story an opportunity to feel more realistic with background extras acting while the main characters are interacting.

Another interesting aspect of Rakkhosh is the combination of extreme realism and surreal, dreamlike moments. Since, in the movie, the viewer is Birsa, we also get to know more about his psyche through some visually nauseating and dreamy sequences that are both horrific (with instances of abuse) and gorgeously looking.

Yet, the scariest aspect of this Indian film lies in real-life horror, which obviously relates to themes of mental instability, abuse, troubled past. On the flipside, though, this makes the supernatural elements of the movie feel detached, silly and ineffective: there’s so much psychologically disturbing stuff in Rakkhosh that the paranormal aspect of it feels unwarranted and manipulative, in the sense that if seems to be added just to please fans of straight supernatural horror flicks.

Speaking of issues with the movie, the other main gripe I have with it consists of the sound-design. As much as the first-person perspective is well-executed in terms of visuals, the sound clearly feels like it’s been added in post-production, which constantly takes you out of the movie. It’d have been so much better if the filmmakers went The Blair Witch Project route, with no external sounds added and only natural noises from the surroundings.

In the constant going back and forth between the events at the asylum and Birsa’s memories, the narrative gets a bit confusing at times, with some continuity errors that, for instance, show us characters in a certain place and, after the scene cuts to a hallucination, they’re in a totally different spot with no logical way for them to be there.

Finally, despite the movie being rated R, much of the violence happens off screen, which is the result of Rakkhosh being filmed in first person. There’s nothing wrong with letting the viewer’s imagination feel up the gaps, but here this choice feels like an attempt from the writers to write themselves out of a difficult task more than anything else.

Aside from a few shortcomings, some of which more severe than others, Rakkhosh is a very enjoyable and somewhat fresh take on the found-footage style of filmmaking. The story itself combines greatly horrifying elements with some sillier aspects, but overall most horror fans will probably enjoy this film.

Rakkhosh                               7/10

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