It's a tightrope walk to bring out freshness out of a spooky film set in an apartment with the lady living alone can see things beyond the obvious. Director Pawan Kripalani lives up to the promise and blends the standard tropes with a strong plot and performances.
Phobia revolves around Mehek (Radhika Apte), an acclaimed artist, who can't step out of her home owing to agoraphobia, which she accrued after a ghastly incident. Her friend brings her to an apartment filled with eeriness. There's a locked room, a black cat, a cracked mirror, a spider, a weird neighbor and transitory shadows. Mehek doesn't want to step outside foreseeing any danger, but with each passing day, things become scary from the inside.
Pawan Kripalani sprinkles specks of intelligence on the plot and gives it clever twists and turns. While most of the elements keep you on the edge, few of dip the momentum. There are smart symbolisms of a male-dominated society, and a couple of comic potions brings down the seriousness down, but breathe in the mysterious ambience. The strong script is backed by Radhika Apte's finest acting and Jayakrishna Gummadi's freaking camera work.
The other enigmatic characters lined up with Mehak bring a sense of suspicion to the milieu. With the tension beefing up at regular intervals, they get to play their parts to good effect. Though Phobia reminds you of other films in the psychological thriller genre, it offers much shock and surprise by staying away from the 'found footage' territory. Adding to this, the protagonist keeps you engaged in her woes, anxieties, fears, and hallucinations.
The painting Nazaria and the smoke out of a taxi happen before Mehak got into the clutches of agoraphobia, then why / how are they used to connect the dots toward the end. There are similar other questions that dilute the proceedings. Barring these, the movie was successful in piling the layers of mystery. Even at times, when the movie slips into a shaky terrain, Radhika Apte's knockout performance puts it back on solid ground.