Gauri: The Unborn ReviewJoe Shaffer
I have seen some laughable attempts at horror in my short time on this planet. I've sat through movies completely devoid of scares, and a good number driven by completely ridiculous premises that took themselves way too seriously. Let's also not forget the scores knock-off films that didn't do the concepts they pilfered any justice whatsoever. Other movies I've seen strove to include poignant messages, but delivered them with the subtly of an A-bomb.
And then there are movies such as the Indian flick Gauri: The Unborn, a horror flick that manages to accomplish all of the aforementioned no-nos.
Yes, Gauri is devoid of scares. However, it's not as though its premise doesn't allow for quality nightmare fuel: here we have two parents and their overly hyper daughter embarking on a vacation to an old family villa, where they are assailed by a supernatural being referred to as "Gauri." The entity possesses their daughter Shivani and commences a spree a "torment and mayhem." I put those words in quotations because Gauri's mean streak consists of 1) speaking in a deep, robotic voice, 2) utilizing piss-poor CGI to remove flowery print from a man's shirt, then placing it on a nearby white curtain (all while sinister music plays, as if to insist that the scene is somehow frightening), 3) causing Shivani to ascend a little too high while on a swing set, and 4) dropping cartoony glass shards from the ceiling. In other words, Gauri is about as malevolent as a throw pillow purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Tame scares are the least of Gauri's issues, though. If anything demeans the movie's fear factor, it's the abundance sugary, repugnant performances. I could understand the movie's lighthearted nature if it were a family film, but Gauri isn't. Here you have loads of scenes with Shivani running wild, acting obnoxious, and singing out of tune to Indian pop songs all of which is irritating enough that some viewers might rethink whether they want to have children or not. Combine that with some of the movie's not-so-family-friendly material, such as a bathtub hump scene and a rather serious moment revolving around the topic of abortion. Gauri's story draws from sobering life matters, but weakens its terrifying punch with happy-go-lucky music, annoying children, and terrible dialogue.
Gauri fails not only as a horror film, but as a clone. Knock-offs make up a vast portion of entertainment, and that's not a bad thing at all. Some of the greatest games, movies, songs, and pieces of literature are older stories reimagined, or even shameless cash-ins. Honestly, as long as the material is good, I say cash away. Sure, Grizzly is not as well made as Jaws, for instance, but it's still a fun nature-run-amok film. Also, I digress... Gauri, though, is not a prime example of the "creepy kid" concept. Hell, I would even go so far as to say that Wicked Little Things, a dull, by-the-books "creepy kid" flick, is leagues ahead of Gauri. Mostly, this goes back to the character Shivani, who's not the least bit scary. Even when possessed by the antagonist, actress Rushida Pandya appears to be nothing more than a little girl with wild hair who speaks in a hushed, deep voice. I will admit that there's a hint of fury and longing in her voice, but her performance didn't convince me that she was a force to be reckoned with.
It's not a requirement that a horror film strive to deliver a strong message or serve as an allegory for something traumatic, serious, or tragic. However, whenever a horror film does attempt such a feat, watching it is much more enjoyable when the writer subtly weaves his message into the story, so as not to beat his audience over the head with his precious moral. In that respect, Gauri doesn't so much beat its audience over the head with pro-life sentiments as storm into their houses, drag them out into the street, bludgeon them senseless with the message. I'm not going to touch abortion with a twenty-foot pole in this review; no way in hell. Regardless of what you feel about any subject, though, it's never pretty when a director rams a story's meaning down your throat. On one hand, if you're against what the director is trying to say, then he's completely lost you as a future viewer. On the other hand, if you agree with his message, then you're likely to feel insulted. Why would you need him to tell you what to think and feel when you've already arrived at that conclusion on your own? Horror works more effectively when directors bury their allegories beneath a layer of metaphors. Half of the fun of watching allegoric films is getting together with other horror nuts, usually via forum, and puzzling out their symbolism. I won't spoil Guari's plot for you, but the flick's sappy conclusion gave me the impression that I was watching a ninety minute PSA.
Gauri: The Unborn's lack of ambiguity combined with horrible performances, weak fright scenes, and its inability to take either the "creep kid" or possession subgenres anywhere interesting murders the experience. Even if you're searching a cheesy horror film, Gauri fails to make entertain. If monstrous children is your desire, then skip this film and check out the classic: Village of the Damned, Ringu, or 1976's The Omen. Heck, even the dated Mikey will suffice. At least it won't clobber you with a clumsy allegory.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.