Evil Eye marks an improvement on the first wave of Welcome to the Blumhouse titles, but remains a mostly ineffective at developing either genre styling or any visceral power.
Evil Eye, the latest release in Amazon’s exclusive Welcome to the Blumhouse film series, carries on the tradition of previous entry Black Box in that, instead of a straight horror film, it is a sort-of thriller with a few extraneous supernatural elements thrown in for measure. Also like Black Box, it addresses the issue of domestic violence, although in this case, instead of the POV of the attacker, we see the devastating effects it has on its victims. This certainly makes for a thematically richer tale, as it addresses the real-life horrors of PTSD, and the various ways it can shape individuals, even decades later. Unfortunately, all good intentions on the part of directors Elan and Rajeev Dassani and screenwriter Madhuri Shekar are lost in a sea of stupid plot twists that serve only to trivialize the topic at hand, making the entire enterprise feel flagrantly opportunistic. Credit where credit is due: Evil Eye is a film that features a predominantly Indian cast and crew, practically unheard of in the current American filmmaking landscape. One does wish, though, that the movie possessed more of cultural precision, as the family at the heart of the story represent obvious clichés: Mom Usha (Sarita Choudhury) desperately wants her 29-year-old daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani) to find a man before it’s too late, while good-hearted Dad (Bernard White) chuckles lightly in the background, supportive of both of the women in his life. Usha firmly believes in the curse of the Evil Eye, a myth whose roots go back centuries but is especially prevalent in Indian culture. Essentially, a person should protect themselves from the titular glance, which can be utilized by anyone looking to do you and your family harm. It turns out Usha knows a thing or two about true evil, as flashbacks strewed throughout make clear that she was once involved in an abusive relationship, a fact she has hidden from her daughter, and which is finally brought to light when Pallavi starts dating a man named Sandeep (Omar Maskati) who Usha finds especially suspicious.
It all leads to a final revelation that audience members can see coming from a mile away, and one that does a disservice to the very real victims of abuse. It evidently occurred to no one here that the film’s twist is actually less effective — and less terrifying — than exploring the lingering trauma of PTSD; there is the potential for a gut-punch ending if the filmmakers had trusted the material to develop naturally, without the added supernatural genre inflections. It doesn’t help that the film looks and feels like a Lifetime film, with its most inspired moment involving a split-screen that really adds nothing to the proceedings but at least looks like someone momentarily cared about the film’s aesthetic value. Evil Eye is also distinguished for featuring the most unnecessary and gratuitous usage of the word “fuck” that’s been seen in ages, inorganically trotted out several times in the course of a single telephone call, an embarrassing bid for a bit of edge. The acting at least manages to lightly transcend the material, with seasoned pro Choudhury delivering a committed, emotionally raw performance that is completely at odds with everything else. If anything, Evil Eye marks an improvement on Black Box, though considering the low bar established by that inaugural entry, filmmakers shouldn’t start patting themselves on the back anytime soon. We viewers are still here, waiting for Blumhouse to deliver the goods when it comes to this series.
You can currently stream Elan & Rajeev Dassani’s Evil Eye on Amazon.