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‘The House Next Door’ film review: Finally, a horror movie worth the name

Milind Rau’s production is very well crafted and a commendable addition to the genre.

Milind Rau’s horror film, supposedly based on a true story, opens in the 1930s during colonial times. Against the backdrop of the Himalayas, a contented Chinese mother and daughter occupy a beautiful house.

Decades later, with the film now turning from grainy black and white to colour, the opening credits quickly take us through the courtship and wedding to the present life of Krish (Siddharth) and Lakshmi (Andrea Jeremiah). The couple lives in a cosy home with a view of the Himalayas. Krrish is a respected brain surgeon at a local hospital. The only interruption to their well-settled and peaceful life is the morning doorbell that marks the maid’s arrival. But things change when a new family moves into the house next door.

We know the vast colonial house next door to be the same one from the black and white bits seen earlier. It is now freshly occupied by a couple, two daughters, the grandfather and house help. But soon after they move in, the older daughter Jenny (Anisha Victor) starts behaving strangely. This is not just about flirting openly with Krish with scant disregard for Lakshmi, but about going into a daze, having fits and other inexplicable behaviour.

With the help of Krish, a local pastor and psychiatrist, Jenny’s father Paul (Atul Kulkarni) tries to understand what is troubling his child and what is haunting his new home.

Play
The House Next Door.

By now, you have been taken through the wood-panelled corridors of the house next door and seen flashes of a passing shadow or heard things moving around at night. Rau does not shy away from liberally using the genre tropes and tools, but he does so very effectively.

The story brings in disquieting spirits, possession, exorcism, good versus evil and devil worship in serious ways, using low angles sparingly and, barring one or two instances, sidestepping cheesiness. Rau packs in the scares even as he and co-writer Siddharth pay blatant homage to their favourite stories in the genre. In one scene, Jenny is reading William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist on Friday the 13th.

The sound effects, lighting, special effects and music elevate the eeriness and sense of dread. The pre-interval set piece is notable for being tautly executed and impressively performed – by Victor in particular. However, the story should have crisply come together thereafter. At 140 minutes, we are introduced to fresh theories, slowly unfolding discoveries and new characters after the interval. Snipping a few scenes would have speeded up the pulse rate.

The execution and acting make up for what the screenplay squanders. Victor, Jeremiah and Siddharth bring in the right dose of lightness, depth, fear and frenzy to their parts. The House Next Door is very well crafted and a commendable addition to the genre.

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The perpetual millennial quest for self-expression just got another boost

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Having come of age in the Age of the Internet, millennials had a rocky start to self-expression. Indeed, the internet allowed us to personalise things in unprecedented fashion and we really rose to the occasion. The learning curve to a straightforward firstname.surname@___mail.com email address was a long one, routed through cringeworthy e-mail ids like coolgal1234@hotmail.com. You know you had one - making a personalised e-mail id was a rite of passage for millennials after all.

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Created using Imgflip

And with chat rooms, early millennials had found a way to communicate, with...interesting results. The oldest crop of millennials (30+ year olds) learnt to deal with the realities of adolescent life hunched behind anonymous accounts, spewing their teenage hormone-laden angst, passion and idealism to other anonymous accounts. Skater_chick could hide her ineptitude for skating behind a convincing username and a skateboard-peddling red-haired avatar, and you could declare your fantasies of world domination, armed with the assurance that no one would take you seriously.

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Created using Imgflip

Then of course social media became the new front of self-expression on the Internet. Back when social media was too much of a millennial thing for anyone to meddle with, avatars and usernames were a window into your personality and fantasies. Suddenly, it was cool to post emo quotes of Meredith Grey on Facebook and update the world on the picturesque breakfast you had (or not). Twitter upped the pressure by limiting expression to 140 characters (now 280-have you heard?) and the brevity translated to the Twitter handles as well. The trend of sarcasm-and-wit-laden handles is still alive well and has only gotten more sophisticated with time. The blogging platform Medium makes the best of Twitter intellect in longform. It’s here that even businesses have cool account names!

Self-expression on the Internet and the millennials’ love for the personalised and customised has indeed seen an interesting trajectory. Most millennial adolescents of yore though are now grownups, navigating an adulting crisis of mammoth proportions. How to wake up in time for classes, how to keep the boss happy, how to keep from going broke every month, how to deal with the new F-word – Finances! Don’t judge, finances can be stressful at the beginning of a career. Forget investments, loans and debts, even matters of simple money transactions are riddled with scary terms like beneficiaries, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS and more. Then there’s the quadruple checking to make sure you input the correct card, IFSC or account number. If this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s the long wait while the cheque is cleared or the fund transfer is credited. Doesn’t it make you wish there was a simpler way to deal with it all? If life could just be like…

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Created using Imgflip

Lo and behold, millennial prayers have been heard! Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first, has now integrated UPI on its digital platform, making banking over the phone easier than ever. Airtel Payments Bank UPI, or Unified Payment Interface, allows you to transfer funds and shop and pay bills instantly to anyone any time without the hassles of inputting any bank details – all through a unique Virtual Payment Address. In true millennial fashion, you can even create your own personalised UPI ID or Virtual Payment Address (VPA) with your name or number- like rhea@airtel or 9990011122@airtel. It’s the smartest, easiest and coolest way to pay, frankly, because you’re going to be the first person to actually make instant, costless payments, rather than claiming to do that and making people wait for hours.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel Payments Bank and not by the Scroll editorial team.