ZHIGRANA promo art
2 half stars  

directed by: Pasang Lama
starring: Sagar Adhikari, Subash Basnet, Hari Prasad Bhattarai, Patricia Buigenet, Sonu Darnal, Clara Fields, Hanna Geschewski, Shanti Giri, Jyoti Karki, Tirtha Koju, Bina Pandey, Diwakar Piya

choice dialogue:

“He goes around in a black dress, with a sickle in hand, killing and scaring people.”

- Well, eventually ....

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

  Watch in seeming real-time as the NGO workers make their way slooowwwllyyy to their final destination in Nepalese slasher ZHIGRANA.

I never thought I’d see a Nepalese slasher movie. ZHIGRANA is the first - and perhaps only - example from that country. A group of young NGO workers hike to a remote village to assess the social needs of the people living there, but the area is plagued with a rash of murders and they eventually find themselves in mortal danger. Blessed with gorgeous scenery and cinematography, the film fails to ignite much excitement until the close of its 2+ hour running time - with the first murder within the group not even happening until the 90-minute mark.

Christine (German actress Hanna Geschewski) is a foreign social worker who has been put in charge of a group to go to the village of Ruku to see if the people living there need help or services. However, the village is at least a couple of days’ travel away so a hunky guide named Rami (Jyoti Karki) is hired to get them there safely. This is Christine’s last mission before she is due to return to the United States. Before leaving, she is perturbed by a phone call from her abusive father, who has recently been released from prison. The group is also low-key aware that a spate of murders has been occurring in the region. Which even the TV news suggests might have to do with the ghost of a man who was lynched in the 19th Century for a series of sickle murders driven by belief in black magic.

  Like its Southern cousins, ZHIGRANA features a handful of song-and-dance numbers.

As the group make their way further into the countryside they witness an exorcism of a young boy. One of the group buys magic mushrooms as a treat and the rest of them consume them unknowingly. This leads to a series of hallucinations that cause them to lose their way in their confusion. Eventually, they stumble across a small lakeside setting and encounter an old man and his creepy grandson. The man offers the group shelter for the night after he explains that they are still at least 12 hours’ hike away from their destination.

As tensions rise in the group, a series of murders leads them to suspect each other and their hosts. By the end of the night, only one of them will live to see morning …

ZHIGRANA is well made and, for the most part, well acted. The Nepalese scenery can’t fail to look stunning. The problem with the film is that it takes forever to get going - it feels like 30% thriller and 70% travelogue. It’s as if the trip to Ruku is almost happening in real-time it takes so long to get there. I know movies from the region tend to run on the long side, but the film’s languid pacing hardly gets the pulse racing. Far too much time is taken up with interpersonal relationships within the group. On the plus side, it means we get to know the characters, but if you have to wait for an hour and a half for the first murder to happen you perhaps have to question whether this should have been marketed as a thriller at all. There are also two musical interludes - including a song and dance around a campfire. Although they can be fun in these South Asian slashers, these musical pitstops tend to kill any suspense stone-cold dead - although they obviously may work better for local audiences.

  The slasher action is pretty well handled. Just a shame the film takes forever to reach its pay-off.

Thankfully, things do pick up in the last 40 minutes and it becomes a whodunnit slasher mystery. However, even then the film initially fails to build up much sense of suspense when so much time is given to mourning the first couple of victims. The closing 15 minutes does achieve something approaching Grand Guignol intensity - which the rest of the film is sorely lacking. Tantalisingly it plays with its audience as to whether anything supernatural is afoot or the killer is hiding in plain sight. However, although the identity of the murderer was surprising (to me at least) it comes so far out of left field that it perhaps feels like a little bit of a cheat.

ZHIGRANA isn’t a bad film by any means. The majority of the characters are likeable and it looks great. However, 2+ hours is just too long for a thriller to sustain any real tension - especially since it seems, defiantly at times, to downplay those elements. Hopefully, any future Kollywood slashers will remedy that.


BODYCOUNT 11   bodycount!   female: 3 / male: 8

1) Male has throat cut with a curved blade
      2) Male lynched
      3) Male hseen hung from a tree (hallucination)
      4) Female found drowned
      5) Female has throat cut with hand sickle
      6) Male whacked in the back with an axe
      7) Male stabbed repeatedly with a knife
      8) Male body glimpsed
      9) Female body found
      9) Male dies of stab wounds
     10) Male dies of stab wounds



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