In times of information overload, garnering eyeballs is tough task for any experimental filmmaker. But the makers of ? appear to have hit upon a marvelously inventive idea of attracting attention. By just naming their film the way they have seems to have raised online curiosity and become possible fodder for tweets.
The movie takes its basic template from the 1999 guerilla Hollywood hit, The Blair Witch Project, and it is possible to suggest other influences too. But this is a very smart localized scare-flick that relies primarily on an idea to define its personality. Apart from the larger gimmick of showing everything as footage found from a camera, the film refrains from using standard horror-film props, rather relying on the helplessness of the protagonists to gain sympathy.
The makers avoid every form of cinematic excess. The spirits announce their presence very gently — the screen melts for a moment as if a pebble has been thrown into water before becoming normal again. The spirits are evil but they seldom scream; often they are just a gentle whisper. There are no monsters and no manipulative background music. Yet sounds – a sudden loud bang or a dull thud – are used adroitly to scare.
Made on a bikini-budget, ? is efficient experimental cinema with clever use of the dialogues and sharp camerawork. That’s a compliment to the behind men and women behind scenes. It wouldn’t have worked but for the natural acting by the gang of seven, most of them rookies. They really look and behave like friends. Simraan (the character’s name) is special in the scene where the spirits drive her into a frenzy. That’s physical acting at its best.
It is sad that the film does not mention the name of the actors and technicians in its credits to emphasize on its ‘fake’ authenticity. Even the name of director is given as the guy who “compiled the footage”. Nonetheless, go and drench yourself in fear. Couples watching the film might find themselves clinging to one another for reasons other than love.
A group of seven students travel to a place, surrounded by trees, to shoot a final year project film. All that is found later is a camera with the footage of their film