Stree is a weak story told with ample humour and wit. It's a rather bold attempt to mix two contrasting genres – horror with comedy. But in this case, humour dilutes the eerie quotient of the film and strips it of the gravity and seriousness it demands. Hence, Stree resorts to the usual horror tricks; over-the-shoulder shots, hand held camera, blaring background score and distorted faces and figures sneaking up on you only at night. It gets so repetitive that it exhausts you beyond a point.
The idea of horror is to make you feel uncomfortable. Stree fails in that department. There isn't much grave crisis here. I don't mean to be unfair and compare, but for instance, the protagonists in this year's A Quiet Place couldn't even talk as the predator hunted on identifying sounds. As a viewer, I felt claustrophobic and held on to my breathing lest I be attacked by the scrawny creatures in the film. Stree keeps it simple - if you don't look back, you will be safe. Yeah, the ghost is that simple and silly here! However, the strength of the film lies that it calls this absurdity out.
O Stree, kal aana - ok I will come tomorrow then, mocks Vicky played by Rajkumar Rao and you laugh at the director as he indulges in some self-deprecating humour. And it's this signature humour of DK and Raj that gives some grace to this otherwise yawn-worthy spooky saga. The dialogues by Sumit Arora are clever and laugh out loud funny. “Tumhe kya Bhagwaan ka Bhoot chad gaya hain,” Vicky's friend innocently asks him and this oxymoron had me smiling. The usage of Pacific Ocean and Chanakya are done smartly too. Even the situations are funny. A mother crying with a missing son's underwear is hilarious and the makers infuse a rather strange sense of mirth in the most tragic situations.
The actors lend hilarity to the script with their poker faced humor. Pankaj Tripathi as the know-all owner of a book store is straight-faced funny. At one point, he addresses Stree as sister and says, Bata kaha hain teri Didi. There are a couple of moments that ridicule the relentless growling of spooky characters in Hindi horror films. An exasperated Vicky screams, "Kya chilla rahi ho? Shehar ke rakshak hain hum, kuch toh izzat karo."
Rajkummar is earnest as always. However it is Aparshakti Khurana (Bittu) and Abhishek Banerjee (Jana) who steal the show. Aparshakti not only rocks the small town accent but also looks convincingly scared. His comic timing and his dialogue delivery shows he is at par with Rajkumar or even better. Abhishek as a nerdy friend looks like he belongs to Chander, the town where the film is set in. Shradha Kapoor is a misfit. We have no clue where she comes from and what she does. Hence she doesn't speak the same language or share similar sensibilities and looks the odd one out.
Overall, Stree is boring, slow and stretched. But a few fun jokes and the overall light-hearted treatment makes it a bearable watch.