Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adam Khor (Pakistan, 1991)

Back in my review of Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay, I mentioned that the success of the film Adam Khor kicked off something of a horror boom within Pakistan's Pashto language film industry. But, in saying that Adam Khor is a horror film, I don't mean to suggest that it was subject to the same kind of self imposed limitations seen in Western genre films. On the contrary, Adam Khor is a film that truly wants it all. And by "all", I mean everything that you'd expect from a Pashto film of its era, including vengeance driven melodrama, manliness on the most manly level imaginable, lots of throaty yelling, fat ladies in wet clothing dancing, and an abundance of loud gunfire and punching sound effects in places where none were manifestly called for.

As our story begins, the residents of a Pakistani village are up in arms about a series of grisly murders that are being committed by some kind of rampaging, supernatural man beast. At the same time, those same villagers are being terrorized by the gang of Haibat Khan, a satanist who maintains his chi by means of all kinds of gory blood sacrifices conducted within a cave lair covered with crude animal drawings. COULD IT BE THAT THESE TWO THINGS ARE SOMEHOW CONNECTED?

Into this situation walks our hero, played by Badar Munir, who makes his entrance by rising up out of the soil like some kind of dirt encrusted cross between Rambo and Bigfoot. Like his Punjabi cinema counterpart Sultan Rahi, Munir is devoid of what we might think of as traditional matinee idol qualities, but makes up for that by having such an excess of testosterone that you can easily imagine each of his testicles having a smaller pair of testicles of their own. Also like Rahi, Munir seemed to have been the only action hero that his native film industry felt was needed during his heyday, and so was employed to the extent of starring in several hundred films. Among these were both of the Pashto films previously reviewed on 4DK. Attentive readers might remember Munir as "hypodermic guy" from Haseena Atom Bomb and "guy covered with knives" from the aforementioned Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay.

Anyway, Munir's character here seems to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time as far as the man beast is concerned. Earlier, after stumbling upon one of the monster's victims, he was blamed for the crime and had his entire family slaughtered by an angry mob as a result. Now, no sooner as he made his dramatic entrance in this new town than he again finds himself at the scene of one of the beast's killings, and is promptly thrown in jail by the village's new police inspector. Luckily, Badar has as a pet a grenade throwing, horse riding monkey who is always at the ready to free him from the predicament at hand.

Yes, I did just write "grenade throwing, horse riding monkey", and the fact that I did so with so little fanfare (a few months back, I probably would have written something like "a fucking grenade throwing, horse riding monkey", as I often fail to distinguish between cursing and fanfare) is indicative not of said monkey's lack of stature as an animal sidekick -- far to the contrary -- but instead simply of the fact that, when it comes to animal sidekicks in South Asian movies, I have by this point seen oh, so very much.

Now on the lam from the authorities, Badar soon runs into Da Khwar Lasme Spogmay's leading lady, Shehnaz, who is here playing the sister of the previous police inspector, who was viciously murdered by Haibat Khan's gang. (Once again, I am in debt to Omar Khan at The Hotspot Online for, by way of his review,  clarifying for me some of the less easily apprehended aspects of this unsubtitled movie's plot.) He decides to join her in her mission of vengeance against the bandit. This mission, of course, runs into opposition from the current police inspector, who is bent upon returning Badal to prison -- until, that is, circumstances lead to all three being united in their bloody minded thirst for revenge, and Badar, Shehnaz and the top cop team up for a raid on Haibat Khan's lair, which looks like a mall Halloween store stripped of all the sexy maid and nurse costumes. Ultimately, all leads to a characteristically lumbering kung fu battle between Badar and the yeti-like titular monster, with Badar ending up getting a little extra assistance from Allah.

As I indicated above, Adam Khor is pretty heavy with those elements typical of Pashto revenge films of its day. The fist fights, gun battles, and reverbed yelling matches are plentiful, as, to a truly astonishing degree, are those dance sequences featuring meaty woman who, in the course of hoofing it up to a succession or unremarkable tunes, appear all too eager to practically sit on the camera. But, to its credit, when it does get around to the horror elements of its story, Adam Khor truly delivers. The final reveal of the monster is preceded by no less than ten minutes of cackling skeletons, flashing lightning, and echoplexed shrieking. And, when shown in all his glory, that monster proves himself to be about the best re-purposing of shag carpet remnants one could hope for. Furthermore, there's no skimping on the blood and gore. There are beheadings and a number of graphic disembowelments, and, at one point, the monster rips what appear to be a guy's lungs out of his chest and then eats them right in front of him.

All of this makes Adam Khor a film that many people will not be able to enjoy on any level at all. And, at a full 150 minutes in length, that's a lot of un-enjoyment to go around. Others of us might see things of potential interest within it, but will be so repelled by the rest that they won't feel it's worth the bother. But for souls more adventurous, indiscriminate, or simply inebriated, I feel the effort of keeping one's finger constantly poised above the fast forward button is well worth it. Based on my limited exposure to Pashto cinema, I can't say with authority that Adam Khor exemplifies everything, good and bad, that that corner of the film-making world has to offer, but, if it doesn't, I shudder to think at what else lies in store.


Michael Barnum said...

A mouth watering review if I ever read one! Thanks Todd!!

Todd said...

You're welcome, Mike! Thanks for reading.

memsaab said...

LOL@testicles with their own testicles...

I love you Todd.

And I must say that our hero was one of the best things about Haseena Atom Bump, not that that is saying much.

Todd said...

Back at you, Memsaab!

Now, since I have not myself seen Badar Munir's testicles, ethics prevent me from making any claims as to that statement's veracity. But, just between you and me, I'm confident it is an absolute fact.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

If it helps any, when I read "grenade throwing, horse riding monkey" quite literally my jaw dropped and I had to back up to make sure I had read it correctly. I'm with Memsaab and Michael - bless you for bringing these things to my attention, even if I rarely prioritize them enough, or surround myself with the appropriate support network at a slumber party (AHEM MEMSAAB), to actually see them myself.

PS Expect a writeup of Mosagallaku Mosagadu very soon!

Todd said...

Aw, shucks. Thanks, Beth! And I look forward to your MM review.

Mark said...

Is there any good online source for obtaining these Pashto language films?