Review: Ragini MMS (2011)

Horror movies are particularly difficult to analyze. They often punish vices like premarital sex, but also often present a young woman who is resourceful and brave. But her reward, that is her life, is because she is pure and avoids those vices. She gets to live because she followed a specific and severe set of rules. Though if she is bland, at least her friends tend to be interesting and get to do something before they die.

And like item numbers, horror movies get to be more subversive than mainstream fair. The movie’s central couple is one you could expect to actually meet. They fight and kiss and party and pout. We even see them buying condoms. Despite the supernatural elements, this is a slice of life as it is.

Because of its small cast and limited setting, Ragini MMS doesn’t use purity to distinguish its characters. Ragini (Kainaz Motivala) is in a sexual relationship with her boyfriend, traveling with him to a remote house to party. Later they are joined by friends who indulge in sex and alcohol. The female villain is less interested in punishing their behavior, per se, and is instead a generic vengeful ghost.

Ragini’s boyfriend, Uday (Rajkummar Rao), has rigged their vacation house with multiple cameras. He thinks that filming Ragini without her knowledge will help him become an actor (showing how awesome he is as a romantic hero?). The movie itself is a “found footage” movie, so this also explains how we can see so much of the action.

Uday is disappointed when their friends show up, but they provide some convenient exposition: locals say the house is haunted by a woman accused of being a witch, and subsequently killed by her family. This explains some mysterious occurrences earlier in the movie, such as maggots in newly purchased food. Eventually the friends leave; they think Uday is playing pranks but really the ghost is (playing pranks?).

Finally alone, Ragini and Uday head upstairs. Uday playfully handcuffs Ragini to the bed. Now two evils are made manifest: the ghost makes her presence fully known, physically injuring Uday; while searching for the handcuff key, Ragini finds a camera hidden by Uday. Which is worse, the supernatural you cannot fight against, or the betrayal of someone you trusted?

The ghost continues to attack Uday, even going so far as to possess him and force him to commit suicide. Ragini is still helplessly cuffed to the bed, the key out of reach. The ghost disappears during the day, forcing Ragini to spend the time alone with her boyfriend’s corpse. When night returns, so does the ghost. Ragini is finally able to escape by cutting her own wrist.

Ragini flees, only to stumble across her friends’ corpses. The ghost drags her back to the house, and continues to torment her. Ragini is able to resist being forced to commit suicide, but she is still injured. After surviving another night, she is able to escape during the day, and is eventually rescued.

Ragini is betrayed and tormented, both physically and mentally. She is able to free herself and nearly succeeds in escaping, although not through any particularly clever tactics. The ghost doesn’t have a particular grudge against her, but against everyone. The movie informs us that she eventually undergoes psychiatric treatment. Because of the ghost, presumably. But what is the toll of betrayal? Of being unsafe not just because of a ghost, which you never think to prepare for, but also because of your boyfriend, which you also never think to prepare for.

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  1. Review: Ragini MMS 2 (2014) – Feminist Bollywood

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