As India is ravaged by sectarian violence on the eve of its Independence Day, two rioters take refuge in an abandoned house. An eerie presence in the house, however, haunts the men to the edge of sanity.
Spectacular handheld camerawork amplifies the differences between the two men and places the viewer inside the house. The tense score closes in on the audience without them knowing. This skillfully crafted horror succeeds in visual implications of violence and the “blink-and-you-miss-it” terrifying background scares.
Performances are astonishing. Hussain Dalal brings aggressive alpha energy balancing Ali Fazal‘s fearful submissive tone. This perfect mix of personas creates a manic atmosphere from the moment they meet. The script’s complexity reveals itself through pointed conversations where each man challenges the other’s manhood over a plate of biryani. It is a clever study and subtle dismantling of toxic masculinity, class, power, and sanity.
Writer-director Shujaat Saudagar, alongside co-writers Abbas Dalal and Hussain Dalal, gives Slamdance 2023 audiences something atmospheric and entirely unique in the genre world. A wow of a feature debut, it is easy to see why it received The Grand Jury Award for Breakout Feature Film.
Boasting a finale you will never see coming, The Underbug is dizzying in the best way possible.