Synopsis – Mahi, a newly married woman, brings an antique Jewish box into her home. When Mahi and her husband Sam begin to have paranormal experiences, they soon learn that the box is a dybbuk containing an evil spirit. The couple then seeks the help of a rabbi to unravel its mystery. Will they survive this ordeal before their child is born?
My Take – With three films from the Raaz franchise (Raaz: The Mystery Continues, Raaz 3: The Third Dimension, Raaz: Reboot) and Ek Thi Daayan (2013) under this belt, it is safe to say that, unlike most leading actors in the Hindi cinema, Emraan Hashmi finds himself quite comfortable in the horror genre.
Hence it didn’t come as a surprise when he agreed to star in writer-director Jay K‘s own remake of 2017 Malayalam film, Ezra, replacing original star Prithviraj Sukumaran.
A blockbuster upon release, Ezra, despite bringing in the usual clichés seen in an exorcism drama, soared with the help of a well written screenplay, its brilliant direction, an unusual probe into Jewish folklore, and an unexpected twist. Hereby emerging as a triumph critically and commercially. With same filmmaker on board, the Hindi remake was destined to repeat the success.
And while the remake is shortened in run time, 112 minutes as opposed to 147 minutes, here, director Jay K remains on autopilot mode, going through all the major plot points as well as the climatic twist, however, somewhere between the transition, everything that worked in Ezra, just doesn’t spell right in the Amazon Prime release.
Resulting in a film that seems in line in one of those lazy horror flicks which filmmaker Vikram Bhatt keeps churning out every year. A very standard horror drama only this time crushing hard on Jew mythology.
The story follows Sam (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi (Nikita Dutta), an interfaith married couple, who move from Mumbai to Mauritius, to get themselves a fresh start following a miscarriage. While Sam gets himself busy immediately by sinking into his new position as VP of a company that specializes in safely disposing nuclear waste, Mahi, an interior designer by profession, gets working on their new house. Keen to give her new home a heritage look, Mahi ends up purchasing an ancient box with Jewish inscriptions dated to the 16th century from an antique store, and opens it upon brings it home.
Unknown to her, the box housed a Dybbuk, a malicious spirit know for possessing in Jewish folklore, who immediately unleashes supernatural trouble for her. Realizing that his wife’s life is danger, Sam ends up seeking the help of Father Gabriel (Denzil Smith) and Rabbi Markus (Manav Kaul), to chase the spirit out of Mahi and back into the box from which it emerged.
Though the film starts off well, the sluggish pace never picks up and occasionally throws in a few jump scares along with generic tropes like rocking chairs, ticking clocks, rustling curtains, thudding footsteps, and dangling apparitions to keep things moving. Even though they barely evoke any sense of fear, even the ones that are inserted into the script lack conviction and fail to erect even a tiny sense of intensity.
Surprisingly, unlike the original, the mystery here feels largely under-explored, with director Jay K barely scratching the element of intrigue and the over-simplistic storytelling tames your drive to discover.
With a local Muslim police inspector, Riyaz Ahmed (Gaurav Sharma), a Catholic priest, a Jewish Rabbi, a Hindu woman, and her Christian husband, the film seems like a cocktail of religions out to bring about societal transformation and harmony. It does not quite achieve that; instead it appears forced and confused with a story that resembles a fairy tale with a wicked spirit drowned by the film’s mundane energy.
Making matters worse is the handling of its twist, which instead of coming as a surprise element in the climax, gets openly teased in minute Rabbi enters into the frame. Hence throwing out the novelty, and falling back on a plot that has been beaten to pulp.
Performance wise, Emraan Hashmi, being in familiar territory, simply sails through and does enough to never earn dislike. Nikita Dutta despite having proved to be a well-rounded actor is stuck in an underwritten role that never confirms whether she is scared or appalled.
In supporting roles, Manav Kaul and Denzil Smith bring some energy into the film along with Gaurav Sharma. However, unlike their Malayalam counterparts, Imaad Shah and Darshana Banik are never given the opportunity to deliver. On the whole, ‘Dybbuk’ is just another insipid horror remake which gravely wastes its potential.
Directed – Jay Krishnan
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 112 minutes