Pari: A comedy of horror

There is no saving grace in the film, despite the fact that it was shot in the most exotic locations

Rahul Aijaz February 02, 2018

KARACHI: Let’s get straight to the point: Pari is ground-breaking. The film that was promoted as a horror defies all genres and is impossible to categorise. Whether it was meant to mock the audience or make a mockery of the entire team behind it, remains a question unanswered because it ends up doing both.

Directed by Syed Atif Ali, and co-written by him and Muhammad Ahsan, the film revolves around a couple, Mehwish (Azekah Daniel) and Shehram (Junaid Akhtar), and their daughter Pari (Khushi Maheen). After they move into a new house amidst the mountains, strange things start to happen which affect Pari’s behaviour for the worse.

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But let’s not worry about that, because after the two-and-a-half-hour film is over, you still won’t understand what happened. It starts with the couple moving into their new home and Mehwish immediately feels something is wrong. Two minutes in, and Pari (the film) forgets that it’s a horror.

Until the interval, all you are treated to is the pointless tension between the couple as the two leads deliver cringe-worthy performances. The rest of the cast isn’t better either. Veterans Qavi Khan and Saleem Mairaj’s performances have no impact and child actor Maheen is given barely anything to do to judge upon.

The great English film-maker Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” Little did he know that Ali would take this quote to heart. The secret of horror films is to scare the audience with the anticipation of the supernatural or the unknown.

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In the case of Pari, true horror lies in its non-existent colour grading, lack of logic and mediocre sound design. The anticipation and fear that we talk about here is clouded by the focus on meaningless romance flashbacks and throwaway songs which add as much to the film as ‘ueue’ to the word queue. It simply weakens the feeling of horror, if there was any to begin with.

The first proper jump scare only comes after the interval. And by that point, the viewer is so phased out that it only garners a chuckle. In hindsight, Pari gets out of you every reaction: laughter when it tries to scare you, agony when it tries to be funny, anger when it goes on for too long and frustration when you realise you have wasted your time and money. But it fails to scare you at any given point in the entirety of its duration.

The absurdity of the film was perfectly portrayed in one shot: pictures of Hollywood icons Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif adorn a hospital wall and are listed as the board of directors of said hospital. If you mar your self-respect (like I did) and  do not leave the cinema hall by this point, Pari will also make you think. In an attempt to be smart, at the heart of it is the debate of atheism v theism.

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Yet it offers the most ridiculous argument. It’s almost like your local maulvi suggesting you a clearly laughable solution and voila, it worked (or at least you believe it did), only because it came from the local religious authority. Hollywood films have shown priests, the Cross and Biblical verses in a similar fashion, but they are always wrapped in a coherent story which more often than not, makes sense. Pari’s execution kills its own argument here.

The film, in all honesty, is a new low for Pakistani cinema. There is no saving grace in it, despite the fact that the team had the most exotic locations available and couldn’t utilise them or the characters. When the blueprint is sketchy, one could never have built a solid foundation anyway. Pari never should’ve been marketed as a horror film, but a horror spoof. But then it wasn’t even that. It delved into an unknown territory from where it’s better that it never returns again.

Verdict: Pari won’t haunt or scare, but scar you. Stay at home to maintain your sanity.

Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

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