Review: GO GOA GONE Goes Great Guns, Gets Gasps And Giggles

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
Color me genuinely shocked. I went to to Bollywood's first zombie comedy with very low expectations and came out completely enthused about the finished product. Directorial team Raj & DK took a lot of very broad references and influences and melded them into something not exactly new, but certainly very entertaining. I've seen a lot of Bollywood horror films, but this is the first one that I feel I can recommend to general audiences without reservation or qualification. Go Goa Gone is a top notch bit of fun.

Bunny, Luv, and Hardik are roommates. While Bunny works his little ass off trying to move up in the world, Luv and Hardik spend most of their energy either getting high or trying to get laid. Through a madcap combination of coincidences, the three end up in India's party capital, the seaside mecca of Goa, and things get rowdy. The trip is a result of Bunny's hard work, but the other two tag along, unable to resist the charms of Goa and the inherent debauchery therein. Luv is coming off of a rough breakup and looking to dip his wick in anything that moves, while Hardik is just a ladies' man from the word go.

While in the process of following their dicks around, the loser pair hear about a massive underground rave being held by the Russian mafia on a private island and decide that the only thing to do is crash the party. Bunny is the only one with a car, so he gets roped into the shenanigans even though he's in Goa on business and has a major presentation the next day (a fact which disappears in the script when it fulfills its goal of getting the trio to Goa). The three rent a boat, The Tatinic, and cruise themselves out to the private mafia rave to make a scene. When an assortment of unknown red pills starts to make the rounds, things get a little weird and before you know it, boom. Zombies everywhere.

Rave zombies? I'm pretty sure Uwe Boll already made that movie. However, unlike House of the Dead, Go Goa Gone is genuinely and intentionally funny. The film is just self-aware enough to move the plot forward and explain a bit of the action, but not meta in a way that distracts from the story. We get nods, large and small, to Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead and many other like minded films. In fact, at one point we see a small crew of zombies with one dressed as Shaun with white shirt and red tie and a second dressed like Army of Darkness' Ash, and you know what, it's so brief that instead of making me groan, it made me smile. There are good ways and bad ways to pay homage, and Go Goa Gone does a solid job of wearing their influences on their sleeve while still telling a very Indian story.

Here's the rub, Indians have made many, many horror films. They've explored monsters, witches, vampires, ghosts, and all manner of other ghouls, but zombies are a new thing in the culture. The characters in the film are befuddled by these undead, slow-walking, flesh eating ghouls, and it takes them a long time to figure out what they are by searching their knowledge of Hollywood films to even come up with the word "zombie." This realization comes organically and naturally, it isn't the centerpiece of a scene, it's just another moment, and that's what makes it work. Their lack of knowledge about zombies, for example: aim for the head, leads to all kinds of great moments as they start to learn how to attack and avoid their pursuers. It isn't flashy, it's just good, solid character work from our five leads, who have fantastic chemistry and deserve credit for taking what could have been terrible and making it shine.

The three main leads, Kunal Khemu (99, Golmaal 3), comedian Vir Das (Delhi Belly, Love Aaj Kal), and Anand Tiwari do a wonderful job of conveying their individual personalities without becoming caricatures. The biggest name in the film, however, is producer/star Saif Ali Khan who plays the Russian mafia in charge of the party. Khan wisely takes a step back and plays second fiddle with an amazing amount of grace, not something Bollywood big-shots are known for having. I'm generally not a fan of Khan, just read my review of Agent Vinod from last year, but this time around he's really excellent and serves his purpose well.

The very difficult balance of making a Bollywood zombie film is handled with extraordinary aplomb by Raj & DK who take the opportunity to create something fresh out of a genre that feels like it has run its course in the west. That actually may be its downfall at the box office in India, unfortunately. While the film is great, it is so different that audiences just may not know what to do with it. As an example, there's a scene near the end in which Kunal Khemu's Hardik (yes, that's his name, and yes, a joke is made. Seriously guys, it's a common Punjabi name) is called upon to woo a zombie out of a boat in order to capture the vessel to take them back to civilization. It plays like a twisted Bollywood romance, the girl chasing Hardik in slow motion around a tree, both of them wet from the sea. If she's were wild-eyed and covered in blood, it would be very romantic. It's the only moment in the film where they transgress the slow-moving zombie rule they've created for themselves, but it works splendidly and will really knock 'em dead with the right audience.

I think I am the right audience for this, I think you probably are too, but I'm not so sure about the Indian marketplace. There's so much that is new and fresh here that it will probably only appeal to the more world cinema friendly crowds and not so much to the meat and potatoes Bollywood types. This is the kind of film that needs to find its audience abroad, I know it's out there. I liked it a lot and I'm very skeptical of Bollywood horror and genre films. If you never thought you'd see a decent Bollywood horror movie, I implore you to check this one out. Go Goa Gone is definitely a winner!

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  • neurotype

    Thanks for the review. As for the movie, it will do just fine in the box-office considering it's targeted at the uni/college age audience.Had they ripped some of the more famous Hollywood zombie movies, the movie would have bombed given how pervasive western movies are into everybody's watch lists.

  • Jim M

    This film is great and basically throws every expecation of Bollywood films out the window. Everyone who likes zombie movies, period, should see this.

  • J Hurtado

    Yeah! See? Jim gets it!

  • Jahan

    No, Josh, you don't get it. The film throws of every expectation *you* have of 'Bollywood' (which you are pitifully misinformed about, despite writing about it ever so often). Twitch would do well to get someone on board who actually gets Indian films and does not write in the silly patronizing white-guy tone that all your reviews reek of.

  • Ramesh Ram

    dog two legs...like I said...

    I hate it when this starts appearing like the masses versus the white people...because in this instance I didn't intend for the comment to come across like that.(there are PLENTY of other places where clueless white people have ruined to for other film industries from their ....being white....but not here.. Here I just think it was a wasted adaptation of a promising zombie device because people who know better ...etc....)

    youre allowed to like the film tho ...there's just no fundamental truth about how "it does something dramatic about your expectations of bollywood". there's no there there. (I wanted there to be...so I was looking).

  • J Hurtado

    I expect nothing more than to be entertained, and this worked for me. FWIW, I'm not white either, not that it makes a difference, but people often use my ethnicity as a reason that I don't "get" Indian films, which I think is a ludicrous statement at this point.

  • Ramesh Ram

    I'm using the Bollywood definition of white....which is EVERYONE ELSE including Tom alter( whose Indian) and didn't I say that that was exactly what I was trying NOT to do?!

    In this case I think you're a genre fan patronizing a movie that ....sort of falls in the middle.

  • J Hurtado

    Okay, well I understand that criticism, I just don't agree. There are times when I adjust my expectations for Indian films, but this one impressed me empirically on its own merits.

  • Ramesh Ram

    Yeah I know thats what you said...

    You sounded like Ellen degeneres with Kai.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Ramesh Ram

    My personal belief here is somewhat like the quote attributed to John lennon. when asked why the Beatles were so successful, he said "inside ourselves, we had this unshakable belief that we made the best music in the world.There was no one else close to us." I think people's attitude towards art should be like that. You can't let your education or lit crit training hold you back. when you make a zombie movie, do it because your soul cries out from your inner zombie , and you want to make the best goshdarn zombie movie there is....anything else is practically inviting your kind of patronizing review

    but that's me.

  • J Hurtado

    Wow, you completely misread me, but I suppose that's your right.

  • Ramesh Ram

    Well, it was certainly a different reading of your words...

  • Rohit Raina

    The second half may be some sort of a letdown after your hopes are raised watching the first half, it still was crackerjack of a movie nevertheless.But.. you haven't really talked about the performances

    BTW, I agree with Ramesh Ram wen he says' "people who KNOW BETTER are intentionally misleading multiplex audience". but I don't think I can say the same about Go Goa Gone.. it was a bloody good flick. But then, opinions differ!

  • Ramesh Ram

    Oh lol I think this review is very typical of why Bollywood is in decline. people who KNOW BETTER are intentionally misleading multiplex audience tastes in a very "japanese new age cinema" way (remember that oddity from the late 80's?

    You do not create your preferred genre by altering mainsteam tastes (no matter what Quentin Tarantino says) to accommodate jombies, whatever they be. you create popular art based on what you sincerely think is a trend in society. else you end up thinking you are doing all the right things and the audience likes you for reasons that have no connection with what you started off trying to tell them (this is called the CAMP conundrum). It "others" the film maker eough that he is isolated from his auduence and needs a publicist , who understands both the filmmaker and the audience BETTER than the filmmaker.

    Sorry for the long loop there. For an industry that tries to be accessible to its distributor-fan- audiences,bollywood doesn't have niche distribution,or links to its genre fans the way Hollywood does. praising the film in a "a dog walks on two legs? thats remarkable" way, encourages half baked efforts when what the entretainment audience needs maybe , really, another sholay - a film that IS a genre hommage but more importantly its vox populii.

    This film is not that. everyone was going what tha fuckkkkkk???? (in my theater) until the end when white girl jombie ran around trees with indian boy jombie, after which they went home reassured. it was a bollywood jombie movie...whatever the heck that means.....

  • J Hurtado

    Fuck! I forgot that I'm not supposed to enjoy something without consulting you first. My bad.

  • Ramesh Ram

    It's illegal and I'm watching you.

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