Evil Eye (2020) Review!!

Synopsis – A superstitious mother is convinced that her daughter’s new boyfriend is the reincarnation of a man who tried to kill her 30 years ago.

My Take – While it would be an understatement to remark that the first two films, The Lie and Black Box, released under the Amazon/Blumhouse venture, appropriately titled Welcome to the Blumhouse, despite their potential, ended up being underwhelming, nevertheless I kept my excitement alive for their next roll out, mainly as it home, with Indian characters and sensibilities.

Meaning, by belonging to the culture I do know the importance superstitions and astrology continue to hold till date irrespective of the educated class or not. And add to that a supernatural tinge, backed by a western production, this one seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, this one too is lacking of the Blumhouse name.

Originally written as an Audible drama by Madhuri Shekar, this Elan and Rajeev Dassani directed film, which also has Indian actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas as an executive producer, definitely has an interesting concept, weaving in elements of Indian religions, customs and folklore. But sadly, the film just pulls a few too many punches to really land as more than a subpar and over-the-top melodrama.

Sure, it makes for an engaging watch, even though it is not overtly terrifying. But one must wonder only if the film had kept the supernatural element dealing with the reincarnation as its primary focus and not play second fiddle to the domestic and familial aspects of the story, the results would have varied.

The story follows Usha (Sarita Choudhary), a superstitious woman who with her husband, Krishnan (Bernard White), has recently moved back to India after spending a good part of three decades in the United States of America, while Pallavi (Sunita Mani), their 29-year-old daughter stayed back. Though now there is a good amount of distance between the two, despite their constant differences, Usha and Pallavi continue to remain very close. With their biggest topics of squabble being Pallavi’s unmarried status and Usha’s over-protectiveness.

However, things begin to change when Pallavi falls for Sandeep (Omar Maskati), a handsome, wealthy, and charismatic young Indian man, who ticks all boxes of being a dream groom for any Indian parent. But Usha can’t shake the feeling that Sandeep isn’t what he seems. And based on several conversations, she begins to suspect that her daughter’s new beau is none other than the reincarnation of a man who tried to kill her three decades back.

As a story this one definitely sounds compelling, but in trying to make it adhere to traditional horror-thriller tropes, the film comes up substantially short. Mainly as it appears to be more character-driven, but the script doesn’t deliver in this regard either. Personally, I did like the Indian touch writer Madhuri Shekar brought to the film. For examples, we see a helicopter parent in Usha who believes that her daughter is cursed.

From rituals to totems, she does all she can to protect Pallavi. Usha’s paranoia is also visible in her lifestyle. Even her cushion covers have the ‘evil eye’ symbol on them. It was important to have an Indian writer pen down this story because as a writer Shekar understands how deep-rooted superstitions can be in Indian society.

But, despite a couple of supernatural elements, there is nothing remotely scary or spooky about the film, as it works more as a mystery thriller, with the suspense revolving around Sandeep’s intentions, hereby offering much more in the way of melodrama than legitimate thrills and chills. Yet in that too the film is very much predictable and straightforward to guess where it is heading. Mainly as the writing is pretty ordinary.

The relationship between Pallavi and is very much rushed, right from their accidental meetup to their moving in together. It also doesn’t help that save for a creepy telephonic conversation with Usha, there are no hints to why she thinks Sandeep is who she thinks is. Of course, her concerns are justified, but the way the film gets around to revealing this is so lazy and uninspired that it borders on comical. Which is a shame as the film does benefit from an extremely talented cast.

Veteran character actress Sarita Choudhury and up-and-comer Sunita Mani are both strong and share some great chemistry despite being in the same frame only in the last few minutes of the film. Omar Maskati plays a switcheroo from being bland to intriguing in every other frame, as he’s tasked with constantly tipping between charming mystery man and nefarious baddie, depending on who he’s with and how he wants to make them feel. While Maskati does an adequate job in the end, a better actor and character would have played wonders for the film.

However, Bernard White is quite likable as Usha’s understanding husband, who simply wants to keep his family together. On the whole, ‘Evil Eye’ is a campy and predictable horror thriller let down by its over-familiar writing.

Directed – Elan Dassani, Rajeev Dassani

Starring – Sarita Choudhury, Sunita Mani, Bernard White

Rated – NR

Run Time – 90 minutes

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