To Western audiences, the most interesting part of director Vikram Bhatt's Raaz 3 will be the Bollywood-narrative conventions—overamplified melodrama, romantic montages, elaborately choreographed dance numbers. But as a horror film, it's about as ambitious as R.L. Stine. Even in India’s broadly targeted pop-film industry, scary clowns have to be a cliché at the level of a Romanian-accented vampire in a black cape going, “I VAAANT TO SUCK YOUR BLAAAHD.” To be fair, though, the file-toothed clown that briefly stalks the film's heroine does sing “Happy Birthday to You” in creepy vibrato. Maggot-covered demons, a possessed, Linda Blair–eyed housekeeper, swarms of huge bugs, and an army of spooky ventriloquist dummies are about as imaginative as the film gets. And we’re just kidding about the ventriloquist dummies. Bhatt’s film looks great, though, and the 3-D photography is well-handled, though occasionally punctuated with broad gestures thrust directly into the lens. Bipasha Basu plays Shanaya, a beautiful Indian film star obsessed with fame and the validation offered only by awards ceremonies, and who is driven homicidally insane when Sanjana (Esha Gupta), a younger performer, wins some super-generic Best Actress award. So she enlists the help of her director boyfriend, Aditya (Emraan Hashmi) to summon Satan, depicted as a hobo in a tweed jacket, and curse her rival. Aditya, whose boot-cut costuming was obviously designed by your denim-loving stepdad, falls in love with Sanjana in the course of slipping her demonic Mickies, but he sort of keeps doing it, just out of narrative momentum or something. By contrast with Hashmi’s indifferent performance, Basu chews it up, flashing evil glares and convulsing with maniacal laughter. Chris Packham
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