Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)

It’s the year 1979 when a frenzied village mob rampages through the house of an occult practitioner, burning him and a woman to their deaths. The opening scene of the 2023 movie “Virupaksha” immediately intrigues viewers with its intense and disturbing start. As the title intro appears on the screen, the story swiftly shifts to 1991…

Directed by Karthik Varma Dandu, “Virupaksha” stars Sai Dharam Tej as protagonist Surya, whose visit to his mother’s ancestral village leads to both romance and horror. Surya finds himself enamored by the beautiful Nandini (Samyuktha Menon), but their love is threatened by a sinister curse connected to the occultist that brings death upon the villagers. When Nandini becomes the next target of the malevolent force, the hero must stop curse from engulfing the entire village and save his beloved.

“Virupaksha” initially establishes high expectations for horror enthusiasts with its gripping opening scene, but then takes a detour, resembling a typical romantic-action film for the next half hour. Despite having an interesting occult-themed story, the creators disrupt the film’s pacing with a pointless song and unnecessary fight/confrontation sequences where Surya assumes the role of the “hero.” For example, there’s one scene where he appears out of nowhere and kicks a villager who tries to lay a hand on Nandini. Another unrelated and comical scene that lacks coherence comes to mind —a character is casually chatting with a woman before being unexpectedly run over by a train. A more supernatural and eerie element would have been more believable than an inexplicably silent express train materializing out of thin air.

The cinematography captures the essence of a rural village life quite well, and it’s commendable that the filmmakers refrain from the new trend of relying on excessively dark scenes that make it hard to understand what’s happening on the screen. Nobody delivers a stand-out performance, although, Samyuktha Menon could’ve used more screen-time than Sai Dharam Tej. The climax comes with a good twist, although the special effects employed weren’t up to the mark.

Those who enjoy mass entertainer elements in their films will find “Virupaksha” pleasing, but those seeking a tightly woven plot dedicated to the horror-thriller genre may feel somewhat let down.

It’s a 6 on 10 from me. You can stream the film on Netflix.

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