2008 and 2009 were very strange transition years for the horror genre. We were beginning to see a change happen in America. People were filled with hope with the coming a new decade and new political administration. So gone were now the days of the brutal, punishing films of a post-9/11 world the likes of SAW, HOSTEL, and WRONG TURN (despite their cash in final sequels). The final nail in the coffin was the late in the year release of 2007’s THE MIST. That nihilistic ending was a nice summation of the previous five to six years of American horror films. In 2008, we saw hope come in the form of a dark knight, horror went back to the basics. Now ghost stories and supernatural horror were back in. Temporarily, we weren’t afraid of other people anymore. I think we’re at another turning point getting us back to the fear of others with a prime example being the success of GET OUT. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
I bring up 2008 because this film, KARMA: CRIME, PASSION, REINCARNATION, was shot way back then. Nearly a decade after the film was shot, it has not received a wide release in the states yet. It was, however, released theatrically in India. Karma follows Vik and Anna who travel from New York to India to visit Vik’s estranged father. Since this is Anna’s first time in India, she is swept up in it all and wants to try to form a bond with her new father in law to fill the void of the parents she never had. While there, Anna is troubled with visions of a spiritual entity who seems to be calling out for help. It’s up to Anna to convince Vik of her visions and to find out who killed the woman she keeps seeing.
Karma does look like it came out straight out of 2008. I don’t mean that as a dig at all. Actually, the production values are quite high in the film and overall it looks great. It just doesn’t look as modern as our new decade’s shot on the RED and 4k obsessed style of filmmaking. In fact, it was quite refreshing to see something “new” that took me back to a decade of filmmaking that I much preferred. See, I loved the SAW and HOSTEL era of the genre. In fact, I think that 2003 to 2007 was a bit of a renaissance for horror. Now, this coming from 2008, was a little bit past that. But seeing as how that year was a turning point for the genre, it still feels like it came from that era. It was a nice touch of nostalgia.
Just because it’s a movie from 2008, and I have a fondness for that time, doesn’t give this movie a pass. Overall, I thought the movie was fine, but nothing too special. The story here is kind of generic with our lead having visions of a ghost who needs seeks justice for her murder. The story works for the most part as I was entertained throughout. Naturally, the film concludes in a reveal you can see coming from hundreds of miles away, but it was still satisfying. It didn’t get to fancy with any unnecessary twists and turns. It’s just a straight up supernatural murder mystery.
The performances in the film were pretty good with the standout here being Alma Saraci who plays our lead, Anna, in the film. She carries the film with a nice intensity and vulnerability that keeps the audience engaged. There were only a couple of performances near the latter half of the film that didn’t hold up as well, but nothing too distracting.
As I mentioned before, the look of the film is quite nice. It has a clean “film” look to it, and the beautiful Indian scenery is very well shot. You could really feel Anna’s attachment to the land in the film. It’s easy to see why this film received a theatrical release in India because the film does look quite cinematic. The film does feature a couple of extended sex scenes that, while nicely shot, were covered a little too intimately that felt a little too real.
What doesn’t work here is that the story is a bit thin for it’s run time. Some scenes go on too long, and the movie overall could have been trimmed maybe an extra ten minutes. At a 92 minute run-time, the film already feels too long. With Anna being the focus, we lose some of Vik and his father’s relationship which the film sort of hinges upon, but I didn’t feel like was fully explored. As I mentioned, the predictable ending was satisfying, but it happens so abruptly that there wasn’t much time for it to set in before the credits rolled.
Overall, I thought the film was good, but not great. Everything behind the scenes was serviceable and the acting was pretty good, but the end product wasn’t anything memorable for me. Director M R Shahjahan has a good eye, and I’d like to see him try his hand at another horror film, perhaps one that embraces the genre more. I think if there was a few more scares, we explored the family dynamic more, and there was about ten minutes of fat trimmed off the movie, I would have enjoyed it a bit more. As it stands, it’s a decent film from another era.
I would recommend this film to anyone who has seen all the genre has to offer from 2008, but would be looking for a lost artifact from that time. This fits right in with movies like THE SKELETON KEY or some of the later PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films.
Check out the trailer here: