Rare is the movie that manages to get everything wrong, lacking a single attribute of a successful film. Ghost is that movie: a film so pathetically executed as to be an object lesson in how not to make a movie.
Ghost is a horror movie (not a remake of the American film), though what kind of horror movie is unclear. Supernatural thriller? Monster movie? Spiritual lesson? Torture porn?
Of course a single film can use elements of all the above horror sub-genres, but debutant writer-director Puja Jatinder Bedi is so unfocused in her storytelling style that I’m not even sure she knows what kind of movie she’s making. There’s no consistency of theme or message, no continuity, and it’s not even clear who the main character is.
Ghost opens with the grisly murders of a doctor and a nurse initially seen having sex in a hospital lavatory. When they are discovered by pious Dr. Suhani (Sayali Bhagat), it seems likely that the film is meant to be a spiritual parable about the dangers of sin.
In case that message isn’t clear enough, the opening credits are subtitled with the following text: “Christ represents the divine life power that illuminates and liberates the soul from the evil powers of Satan. O SONS OF ADAM AWAKEN AND EMBODY CHRIST WITHIN YOU.”
The divine punishment angle quickly falls apart, as it becomes clear that the two deaths (and the ones to follow) are the work of a vengeful spirit, not acts of divine judgment.
Freelance detective Vijay (Shiney Ahuja) investigates the murders and discovers that the spirit is likely that of a murdered hospital intern, the subtly-named Mary Magdallen (Julia Bliss).
Mary is Vijay’s wife, of whom he has no memory thanks to a mild head injury, of which he also has no memory. In fact, he seems unaware of having a memory gap of however long it took him to fall in love, get married, and have his wife die. Apparently, he has no friends either, because I’d wager that one of them might have let slip at some point that Vijay has (or had) a wife.
Since everything about Ghost stinks, I’m going to focus on a few of its worst offenses. First is a pet peeve of mine: casting actors with inappropriate accents. Mary is supposed to be Australian, but Bliss is Russian and sounds it. Either make the character Russian, or cast a different actress.
Next is the way the movie fetishizes violence against women. The whole movie is gory, but flashbacks of Mary’s murder-by-torture and her body’s subsequent dismembering are shown in almost loving detail. As a woman, director Bedi should have exercised better judgement and not pandered to the base desires of misogynists.
The most egregious offense in Ghost is its silly perversion of religion for tawdry thrills. Christian imagery pervades the film: Mary’s name and the details of her murder (hint: a cross is involved), “plagues” of frogs and locusts at various crime scenes, a computerized artist’s rendering of Hell, etc. The imagery symbolizes nothing and makes little sense in the context of the film. I think it’s just there to show that the filmmakers have read the Bible — or, more likely, stopped by a Sunday School class once or twice.
At the scenes of two murders, Monster Mary is accompanied by a cryptic figure, whose left half resembles Jesus and right half resembles a devil. The figure’s significance is unclear and is never discussed. The film ends with a shot of Mary in her appealing mortal form, hugging Jesus (regular Jesus, that is; not the half-Jesus-half-devil guy).
Are we supposed to believe that Jesus — Mr. Forgiveness — is cool with one of his acolytes exacting bloody revenge from beyond the grave? Wasn’t one of the whole points of Jesus’ existence to convey that revenge is God’s domain and that forgiveness is a path to salvation?
If I were a Christian, I might be offended. But Ghost is so stupid and inept that taking its offenses seriously gives it more credit than it deserves.