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Raindance 2023 Review - PETT KATA SHAW

Pett Kata Shaw review
Anthology of four creepy tales inspired by Bangladeshi folklore.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nuhash Humayun

Starring: Sohail Mondal, Shirin Akter Shila, Afzal Hossain, Chanchal Chowdhury, Pritom Hasan, Novera Rahman

Pett Kata Shaw poster

The thrill of a spooky yarn is so universal that at this point there probably isn't a nation on Earth that hasn't produced its own horror anthology movie. Writer/director Nuhash Humayun's Pett Kata Shaw (which Google translates to English as "Stomach Cut") probably isn't the first portmanteau horror to come from Bangladesh, but it's the first to receive this level of western attention, with no less than Jordan Peele nabbing Humayun for a future project.

The film began life as a series on a Bangladeshi streaming service, and its four episodes have now been combined into a feature for its international release. This means the sort of wraparound you expect from such anthologies is absent as the film simply presents its four stories as standalone segments.

Pett Kata Shaw review

Anthology films often front load their thrills so it's a surprise that Pett Kata Shaw begins with arguably its weakest story. That's a relative assessment though, as unlike most anthologies, there are no bad segments here. Things kick off with the tale of Mahmud (Chanchal Chowdhury), a confectionery store owner paid a creepy visit by a Djinn (Afzal Hossain) as he's closing his store late at night. The Djinn has a sweet tooth and demands candy in return for granting Mahmud a wish. Constantly berated by his wife for his poor memory, Mahmud asks the Djinn to gift him a photographic memory. This makes Mahmud something of a local celebrity, with crowds gathering to test his memory on everything from cricket scores to scientific theories. The gift soon becomes a curse as Mahmud finds himself being driven mad by the amount of knowledge swirling around in his head. Hossain is a sinister presence as the Djinn but the segment doesn't do enough to explore its setup and ends with an ineffective twist.

The same can't be said for the following segment, which boasts a blackly comic twist to its horrors and the most satisfying ending of all the episodes. Student Hasan (Shohei Mondol) returns home with some fresh fish to his dorm room to find his roommate lying dead on the floor and a Petri (an evil female entity from the sea) sitting at his kitchen table. Remembering some advice from his mother, Hasan maintains eye contact with the demon (played by former Miss Bangladesh Shirin Akter Shela) while cooking her the fish he brought home. Mondol does his best Bruce Campbell impersonation as thoughts race around his panicked head, and Humayun shoots close-ups in a manner that recalls Sam Raimi. It ends with a great twist that will have the women in the audience rolling their eyes and mouthing "Typical man!"

Pett Kata Shaw review

In third place is the strongest segment, which is something of a mini-anthology in its own right. Nagib (Morshed Mishu) and Sara (Syeda Taslima Hossain Nodi) are a bickering couple backpacking through a rural area when they stumble across a remote village. The locals brag that every one of Bangladesh's superstitions originated in their village. Nagib and Sara listen cynically as backstories are narrated which give rise to various famous Bangla sayings. These stories are told using traditional string puppets and they all come together to cleverly tie into the segment's creepy payoff.

While the first three segments have a vein of black comedy running through them, there are no laughs in the sombre concluding segment. As with the second story, this one is also about a young man haunted by a woman from the sea. In this case it's the spirit of his ex-girlfriend, who took her own life by hanging herself. The young man tortures himself by constantly replaying his final video recording of his lover, to the point that her final words appear to whisper on the wind coming in from the coast. Wracked with guilt, the man finds himself drawn to the sea… The segment has an atmospheric setting of a coastal village, all chilly gusts and ominous tides. It's a melancholy piece that might have been better suited to a middle segment however, as it sends the audience off on quite a downer with its dark subject matter. With its meta-commentary on storytelling, the third segment might have been a better choice to close out the film.

Pett Kata Shaw review

Pett Kata Shaw isn't remarkable enough to stand among the classics of the horror anthology sub-genre, but it's a rare case of a portmanteau film where every segment works to some degree. Western viewers will likely enjoy seeing familiar horror tropes given a Bangla spin as the film reminds us that no matter how different our cultures are, we're all scared of the same things. It will be interesting to see what Humayun will produce with the backing of Peele.

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