After causing an accident that led to the death of passengers on his boat, Jogi begins to feel immense guilt and a desire to leave his home. He flees to the Himalayas to take up the job of caretaker at the Nirvana Inn. However, his sanity starts to waver as he is confronted by guests bearing resemblance to his victims, and a masked man who keeps appearing before him.
The title “Nirvana Inn” is a bit deceptive, as one might tie it in with serene imagery. In spite of the first shot showing a gorgeous countryside, the focus soon turns to our protagonist walking towards the camera, with a nervous look on his face as he lights a cigarette. Within these first few moments, it becomes clear that there is something slightly askew. The entire production follows suite from the opening sequence, constantly balancing beauty with horror. Perhaps the film can be best categorized as ‘Folk Horror’ which has seen a bit of a resurgence in the last few years with productions such as “Witch”, “Midsommar” and “Apostle”. Like the aforementioned films, “Nirvana Inn” does succeed in many facets that have resulted in a renewed interest in the one time niche genre.
The production acts as a visual feast, showing a keen eye for how to create tension through its presentation. No shot feels out of place, the lighting is utilized to create a sense of dread, the camera always seems best positioned to capture the moment, and (perhaps most importantly in the genre of folk horror) the landscape and resort exist as a character unto itself. As an additional bonus, the score remains complimentary throughout, adding to the feeling of tension and dread.
The script for the film is engrossing, making it difficult to point to any given moment as really excelling. Admittedly, the film does become a bit tedious in the second half, but feels like ‘too much of a good thing’. This does not mean that it feels padded, as every interaction does well to deepen the narrative. However, a faster pace could have helped the ending have a bit more weight. Overall, the script ensures that the audience does not have all the pieces of the puzzle, adding a layer or mystery on top of its stunning visual presentation.
Actor Adil Hussain gives an admirable performance in the lead role as Jogi. Given the film script he seldom has a reason to show much emotion, but the reason for these walls being built up becomes apparent through as the story progresses. Further, Hussain does a great job of allowing the anxiety his character is experiencing to manifest in his performance. Although subtle, Hussain manages to portray an empathetic character while staying rather stoic through much of the production.
The rest of the cast rounds out the production well, each complimenting Hussain’s performance. Perhaps the most unnerving performances come by way of a family at the Inn, which are possibly spirits from the past. Every time the family was together they became this odd focal point, with the children in particular creating a constant sense of uneasiness. A prominent example, is a scene where the children begin to fight in a slow fashion that results in frames of twisted grins, which ends in blood. Although this scene is not exploitative in the least, the non-nonchalant approach to the violence within the family highlights just one of the few moments that Jogi is confronted with the ghosts of the past acting bizarrely.
“Nirvana Inn” certainly hits the right notes, creating a persistent unsettling atmosphere that kept me glued to the screen. Director Vijay Jaypal ensures that no aspect of the production works against the atmosphere, brilliantly balancing the visuals and script to create a complete vision of madness. Perhaps the only real critique I can give is the ending not having as strong as an impact as I would have hoped. Although, given western endings in these types of productions tend to be more graphic and horrific, whereas “Nirvana Inn” ends on a more somber note. The production is also likely to deter horror fans who require constant jump scares to qualify a horror film as successful. However, as a fan of well constructed atmospheric horror, “Nirvana Inn” was an engrossing experience, with so many successful moments and creative choices within the production. Having viewed the film the day before Halloween, it was a pretty ideal treat!