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'Evil Eye' Review: I spy few too many thrills

Elan and Rajeev Dassani's 'Evil Eye' is another less than hospitable welcome into Blumhouse's partnership with Amazon, lost to the mundanity of a long-distance chiller.

The dangers that await in 'Evil Eye.'
(Image: Ā© Amazon Studios)

Our Verdict

There's more anticipation and tension when listening to an unanswered dial tone than is present in 'Evil Eye.'

For

  • šŸ‘€ Culturally significant horrors.

Against

  • šŸ‘€ Never gripping.
  • šŸ‘€ Hardly thrilling.
  • šŸ‘€ No secret sauce.

As "Welcome To The Blumhouse" continues to underwhelm, Evil Eye doesn't break sustained trends. Elan and Rajeev Dassani translate India's forceful marriage culture into a spiritual stalker story, in a way that's numbingly dull and simplistically unforgiving. The filmmakers attempt to challenge antiquated connections between a woman's worth and the husband she serves, only to fail in representing the richness and confliction of traditional values pit against progressive breaking points. There's an honest conversation to be had, but how the Dassanis choose to explore these paranoias, impositions between a mother and daughter living in different countries, never achieve tension or urgency. Any drama, I'm afraid, is lost in transmissions between telephone receivers.

Pallavi (Sunita Mani) succeeds as a writing graduate who now teaches undergrad students in New Orleans. She's in frequent contact with her mother, Usha (Sarita Choudhury), long since reallocated back to Delhi when her husband and Pallavi's father accepted an offer in chase of his own professional ambitions. Usha pressures her daughter as she's nearing the age of thirty with no engagement prospects, but Pallavi doesn't recognize the same alarm when it comes to wedlock. That's until Sandeep (Omar Maskati) waltzes in like a fantasy rom-com protagonist, presumably something that should please Usha. Instead, Usha nervously compares Sandeep to her own abusive and deceased ex-lover, going as far as to accuse Sandeep of being a reincarnation driven by revenge.

Madhuri Shekar's screenplay exposes the stigma of being an Indian woman who dares defy culturally accepted normalities. Pallavi repeatedly hears about Usha's mounting concerns, tied to astrology and beliefs about how Pallavi will never discover love if she hasn't already. Granted, it's the juxtaposition of social acceptances by placing Pallavi in America and Usha in India. Pallavi finds freedom in her choices while Usha clings to ceremonial comforts and milestones expressed by scripted teachings. In terms of two generations of the same Indian bloodline finding peaceful ground as their ideals clash, this is when Evil Eye executes its story best. 

Even at that, it's shallower than a grave dug by a toddler with a disposable plastic spork.

Usha loses herself to a reality where Sandeep, whose adoration and romanticism brings Pallavi nothing but happiness, is the same manipulative bastard responsible for Usha's lasting relationship trauma. Every conversation becomes less patient and more frantic, as Usha hires private investigators and spends savings on horoscope readings to prove Sandeep materialized from supernatural spite. The problem is, all these interactions and confessions take place via cellphone chatter, which continues for, I'd predict, eighty percent of the film's duration? Then Usha flies to New Orleans for a climactic encounter that's barely worth the staged and stubborn narrative we endure for too many preceding scenes. There's no energy to the film, no momentum, as separation doesn't beget anxiety while Usha becomes less and less stable in the eyes of observers.

That's essentially everything Evil Eye drives towards. Usha's endurances of jealousy, predatory lurking, and eventual head-cracking violence are something she fought herself, "fooled" by the nice guy template. Usha, at a point, screams her warnings, but she's just the Auntie who cries "undead ex-boyfriend." Usha repeats the signs, leverages her experiences, and yet, Sandeep couldn't possibly hide sinister intentions given his squeaky-clean, outwardly Prince Charming exterior. Pallavi can't be anything more than jaded given how Usha never supports Pallavi's wishes, which only furthers their relationship strain. Arguments become less about acknowledging Usha's fears and more about Pallavi wrestling with the heartbreak of her mother's inability to support her child, even when following orders as once instructed. Forcible bickering that feels anything but natural. 

For all its dramatized beats and attempts to feature POC perspectives, Evil Eye is dreadfully uneventful. Elan and Rajeev Dassani struggle to issue their film any identity, beyond talkative setups and an absurdly sensationless finale. There's nothing but empty caverns to analyze because everything from screenplay roots to visual style is indistinguishable from eleventy billion other streaming titles available for consumption. Whatever strives to blend folklore behind protective jewelry with gender-specific terrors are so weak the narrative barely registers a pulse, committing the cardinal cinematic sin of being forgettable despite channeling national uniqueness that's dimmed by otherwise moodless conflicts. In one ear, out the other.