Kushee Ravi, Vivek Simha, and other star in the film directed by debutant Bharath G and produced by HK Prakash
Last Updated: 10.05 AM, Jan 06, 2023
Khushi returns to college after a gap of a year in an attempt to put her troubling past behind her. But little does she know that the very college is troubled in its own 'spooky' ways and as soon as she sets foot on the premises, things spiral out of control. Soon enough, the college encounters multiple student deaths which are perceived to be in relation to the 100-year-old institution's ghostly and sinister history. Can Khushi, who is now rumoured to be the cause behind it all, get rid of the demons in her life and also save her college from impending doom?
It is highly likely that while watching Spooky College, you scrunch your eyes towards the screen, trying to make sense of what's happening in front of you. It is also highly likely that once you are through with the film, you walk out of the theatre feeling anything but spooked, but most definitely frustrated. Another operative word is "mess" because director Bharath G's debut film feels excruciatingly incoherent: during the majority of its runtime of 2 hours and 13 minutes, Spooky College leaps and squirms in search of a plot or a purpose and when it finally arrives at the semblance, you will find the end credits rolling up on the big screen.
In essence, Spooky College can be seen as two completely mismatched films. On one hand, you have a psychological horror film that stems from the protagonist Khushi's inner turmoil. Khushi is reeling under the trauma of her recent past and the melancholy in her life is now slowly manifesting itself in eerie ways. The world around her is unbeknownst to the fact that she is currently nursing the wounds of love and instead sees her as this weird, aloof creature that's constantly wiggling and shifting in a strange manner. Her only companion in this journey is sprightly Rishi (played by Vivek Simha) who vouches to see her through these troubles but there is a catch which is best left undisclosed.
On the other hand, there is the college horror story that unfolds mostly in a bizarre, slapstick manner. We learn that a "ghost" lurks in the ancient corridors of St. Norway's Engineering College which finds its prey isolated in its vast dinginess - students, professors and the extended college staff combined have encountered this ghost on myriad occasions. Turns out that the spookiness is the courtesy of the institution's deceased founder Norway Michael Haydem who, in all his tyrannical glory, has now reemerged as a vengeful ghost. Haydem's grout is against love and anyone who seeks it, and every time the word 'love' is uttered on campus, death follows in tandem.
Now, what Bharath G (also the writer) tries to do is first keep the two plotlines distinct, lead the viewer into a relentless guessing game, and then connect everything in a single flourish. The entire first half of the film is dedicated to this game of deception. We see that Khushi is yet to become a prominent part of the large picture and while she goes about her own quest for sanity (along with Rishi), the rest of the college tries to come to terms with Haydem's mayhem. Cops, exorcists, and many other agents of justice get involved in an attempt to rid the college of Haydem but when nothing comes to avail, it becomes crystal clear that Khushi and her murky past withhold all the solutions.
By all means, this sounds like an enterprising story on paper but Spooky College is riddled with such inconsistencies that it never feels like a full-fledged film. Despite having a strong emotional core, the writing never fills it with depth and instead, Bharath G goes for jump scares and screams that seem silly and completely inauthentic. His pursuit is ambitious, no doubt, but his approach feels all over the place because his script spends too much time being overbearingly funny and caricaturish. The main characters, despite the emotional baggage they carry, too, remain unexplored and bland.
As far as performances go, Kushee Ravi tries her best but the sloppy writing stunts her arc, never really allowing her to flex her muscles. Vivek Simha as Rishi is a tad too effervescent and goofy on screen. The rest of the cast, comprising senior actors Hanumanthe Gowda, Vijay Chendoor, Raaghu Raamanakoppa, and others, are allowed to contribute very little.
Spooky College has very merits to boast about despite being a well-intended attempt. As pointed out already, the film struggles to find the right pitch and tone and while the plot seems intriguing at certain points, the lacklustre writing and execution become its undoing. And even as a surface-level horror film, the film fails from evoking scares - unless you have a lot of time to kill, consider giving the film giving a miss.