Four women. Four local Assam folk legends brought to life. One woman plots to kill her step daughter, one woman forces her child to marry a python in the hopes of prosperity, one woman has given birth to a vegetable that won’t stop following her around and one woman is faced with protecting her newborn child after her husband has killed the previous three.
Neither horror nor fantasy, Kothanodi perfectly encapsulates the unsettling and otherworldly aspects of each.
The most frightening potential in a horror film is for the the subject of the terror to become reality. The darkest, most ruthless fairytale told in Kothanodi is a reality for many children: domestic abuse. As the narrative progresses, the viewer’s discomfort increases as the abuse the child is subjected to worsens. This disturbing aspect must be applauded for its horrific value; it crawls under the skin, wedges itself there and refuses to leave long after the feature has finished.
Though there isn’t a lot of character development, backstories, present lives and personalities are laid bare on screen. The cast’s careful attention to behaviour does more to naturally further the plot than any deliberately placed exposition.
Nonetheless, Kothanodi creates the sensation that there is something crucial missing. Though blank spaces filled with imagination often conjure something much more terrifying than anything the production team could have provided, open endings are tricky to get right. The film doesn’t necessarily fail, but it doesn’t do it as well as it could.
With his directorial debut Bhaskar Hazarika has produced an accomplished feature that tiptoes on the border of many genres, driving his characters to insanity. This is certainly not the first film of its kind to take folklore and turn it into horror, but it makes a strong bid where others have failed.
Kothanodi does not have a UK release date yet. It is part of the Dare category at the 59th London Film Festival.
Watch the trailer for Kothanodi here: