The 1920 series of horror films has never stayed true to the genre. It is just a mishmash of a lot of jump scares, risqué scenes to give the film a sensuous touch, and some amazing songs. The amount of time and money spent on giving off the vibe of the 1920s era never added any extra value to the films. Adding another movie to this series, 1920: Horrors of the Heart, is as vague as the title. Released on August 18th, 2023, this film is directed by Krishna Bhatt and talks about a young girl who wants to avenge the untimely death of her father.
Meghana Loses Her Father
1920: Horrors of the Heart begins with Arjun and Meghana discussing how to approach Meghana’s father to ask him to bless their marriage. The movie is set in 1920, back when the British ruled the country. There is nothing established so far about what Meghana and Arjun do for a living. Sharing this information would have helped us understand their relationship. The writer and director did not even establish how long the couple had been together. It is just assumed they are on a long-term commitment and now intend to get married.
On the same night, Meghana loses her father to suicide, and the post-mortem report states that the man had no heart inside his body, which the doctors and the local police find perplexing. We believe this scene was added only for us to understand that the movie has an element of fantasy. Her father’s body having no heart is a bizarre revelation. We wonder how ludicrous the film will get from here on.
Meghana’s father, Dheeraj, leaves a diary in which he states that her mother, Radhika, left them to pursue more money and fame because she was done with him being a writer who has made nothing of himself. She also finds out that Radhika tried to poison her father, which led to his declining health. Meghana gets carried away by her father’s words and is filled with rage against her mother, which is understandable. She invokes her father’s spirit and hatches a plan to exact revenge on her mother and the new rich family she found for her comfort. Meghana comes across as a gullible person. Again, the writers do not showcase how Dheeraj raised Meghana on his own, and there is nothing showcased to help us understand the bond shared by the father and the daughter. Meghana breaks things off with Arjun to seek her mother, even though he begs her not to do that.
Her Plan Is Put Into Motion
Meghana reaches her mother’s home. Radhika is now married to the rich aristocrat Shantanu, and she has another daughter, Aditi, with him. She expected horrendous treatment from them, but the new family is accommodating and is genuinely sad about Meghana losing her father the way she did. Meghana was surprised because her father had only vile words for them, and their welcoming behavior subverted her expectations. She is not ready to believe their words and actions yet, though.
Meghana sees her father in her dream, who constantly pushes her to work towards their goal of finishing Radhika and her family. In her dream, she also comes across a half-burned man who seems to instigate her just like Dheeraj does. The horror-fantasy element we have seen so far in this film is not believable. We only get to see rage, which is out of place, thanks to some bad acting. The whole idea of the horror genre is to surprise the audience. The predictability of the story makes the film anything but engaging.
Did Meghana Pay For Her Mistakes?
Arjun shows up at Meghana’s mother’s home and provides her with a container full of the ashes of her father. Meanwhile, Meghana also runs into a gardener who seems to know everything that is happening in her life. He wants her to not get carried away by her dreams. In any horror film, there is always one character who gives out premonitions and warns the lead character about the approaching danger. This tried-and-tested formula still does not work because it kills the element of surprise. Hindi filmmakers should go beyond such tropes and look for horror stories with a twist. 1920: Horrors of the Heart looks campy so far.
Arjun asks Meghana to place the ashes below her sister Aditi’s pillow. Black magic done to it will do the rest. Meghana is in two minds about hurting her half-sister. Aditi, just like Shantanu, has given Meghana enough space to be herself and allowed her to settle down. They also ask her to stay with them forever because this is what Radhika wants. Radhika and Meghana have not had a decent one-on-one conversation about their past or her father. Meghana thinks her mother feels guilty for abandoning her. Meanwhile, Radhika probably thinks Dheeraj only told their daughter lies about her.
The black magic on the ashes starts manifesting on Aditi, and she starts behaving as if she has been possessed. The possession state only gets worse as she starts speaking in a male voice. The gardener who warned Meghana about her misleading dreams hands her Radhika’s diary, which states the contents of her life from her point of view. Radhika reveals in the diary that Dheeraj was a jealous, unsuccessful, and abusive writer who forced Radhika to sleep with other men to obtain money and success. She was lucky enough to find Shantanu, who rescued her from her hellish life. She wanted to take Meghana with her, but Dheeraj took their daughter away before she could. Radhika’s revelation of being subjected to cruelty and abuse is a predictable narrative. There were aspects of mystique and tension in this big reveal. Meghana feeling guilty for her sister’s state was bound to happen. This is a cathartic lead arc where she will have to take a drastic step to save her family and repent for her mistakes. Meghana was played by her father.
Meghana reveals her role in harming Aditi to her mother. She also lets them know that it is her father’s spirit that has possessed the young girl. Meghana wants to do everything she can so that her family gets out of this messy situation and gets rid of her father’s vengeful spirit. The vengeful spirit is a common narrative trope used in many horror films, and this entity never wants to believe in its role in harming people just before they die. Countless efforts from Radhika and Shantanu to get rid of Dheeraj’s spirit do not work, so Meghana hatches a plan that could lead to her making the ultimate sacrifice. She kills herself and gets to meet her father’s vengeful spirit. She is aware of a bright light taking the spirit away, and her father refuses to go because he wants to stay back and complete his revenge.
As the bright light appears, Meghana holds onto her father, and his soul is taken away. The end of the film is too plain and devoid of any emotion. The dramatization of her suicide and her last conversation with Arjun’s spirit, who was killed by the half-burned man, brings back memories of a typical commercial Hindi film’s ending. The film hardly had any aspects of horror that could justify the genre. The fantasy elements do not generate a sense of fear. Horror movies are supposed to invoke terror, but this film barely touches the surface of the genre. There are over-the-top, long dialogues that do not serve any purpose. 1920: Horrors of the Heart ends with Meghana waking up to her family next to her and Radhika wanting to get to know her daughter better from here on. It is implied that Meghana is forgiven for her role in attempting to kill Aditi. We hope they live happily ever after from here on.