Ashim Ahluwalia’s Palace of Horrors, one of eight films in the horror anthology The Field Guide To Evil, will be premiered at the South by Southwest Festival in March. Known as SXSW, the festival will be held in Austin in Texas from March 9-18.
Ahulwalia’s creep-inducing and atmospheric short is set in 1913 in the Sunderbans in Bengal, and is told in style of amateur films that were made during colonial rule. The voiceover is provided by the assistant of an American circus agent, Gentry, who has come to the Sunderbans to shop for freaks and malformed misfits to take back to America to be exhibited for entertainment.
Gentry, described as a man “who craved this disturbing paradise of exaggeration”, gets more than he bargained for when he enters a palace managed by a strange-eyed woman (Niharika Singh). Gentry ignores her warning to avoid opening a trap door that leads to an underground lair. In the black-and-white film, which also stars Mark O’Gleby, Henry Throop and Robin Das, seeing is indeed believing.
Apart from India, the omnibus film has contributions from Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Turkey and the United States of America. The other entries in the anthology include films by Peter Strickland from Hungary, Calvin Reeder from the USA, Katrin Gebbe from Germany, and Agnieszka Smoczynska from Poland. The Field Guide to Evil will be released in theatres in Europe and the USA later this year.
“It’s quite an honour to be the first Indian filmmaker to have a world premiere at SXSW,” said Ahluwalia, the director of John and Jane, Miss Lovely and Daddy, in an interview. “It’s a horror film, inspired by dark folk tales from around the world, and the buzz on the premiere has been huge.”