On paper, Rajeev and Elan Dassani’s film, Evil Eye, has a fascinating premise. Featured in Amazon Prime’s Welcome to the Blumhouse series, Evil Eye features an almost entirely South Asian cast and a plot that teams up a mother and daughter against a very real monster. The film itself has plenty of shining moments, but its flaws—mainly its execution— keep it from reaching its true potential.
Usha (Sarita Choudhry) is an overbearing mother whose only primary focus is ensuring her 29-year-old daughter, Pallavi (Sunita Mani), gets married before she becomes a spinster. Having a much more modern mindset than her traditional mother, Pallavi is tired of the frequent set-ups and wants to meet someone on her own.
But when she introduces Usha to the handsome and ultra-rich Sandeep (Omar Maskati), Usha thinks something is off about this seemingly perfect individual. She starts to become increasingly convinced that her daughter’s new beau is a reincarnation of an ex-boyfriend from her dark past.
India’s vibrant culture is front and center in an observant lens. From meeting with matchmakers to analyizing the potential couple’s birth signs, screenwriter Madhuri Shekar brings more depth to the practice and finding a suitable match. The title “Evil Eye” also stems from a real superstition believed to be cast by an evil glare. Typically horror films would usually use another culture’s superstition as an evil source of magic that needs to be defeated, but Shekar treats it more respectfully than that.
Unfortunately, culture and representation can’t save Evil Eye from its hollow story. The film starts with a suspenseful buildup but never delivers on it. Instead, dialogue fills up time that could have been spent on scares. The lingering question as to what is Sandeep’s true identity is quickly answered within the first 20 minutes of the film, and there’s no underlying explanation for why this is happening. By the time the twist comes along, it’s not so much shocking as it is eye-rolling.
The film’s biggest strength is Usha and Pallavi’s relationship. Most of their communication is via long-distance phone calls and voicemails, which can be challenging to maintain a genuine connection on screen. But you can feel the tenderness between the two, even when it seems like Usha is not satisfied with her daughter’s achievements. Choudhry gives Usha complexity and shapes her character to be both a strong presence for her daughter and a survivor coping with PTSD.
This year’s Invisible Man (yes, it did come out this year) tackles very similar themes revolving around abusive relationships. But the difference between that film and Evil Eye was that sense of dread. Leigh Whannel’s film utilized cinematography and closed spaces to stir anxiety, and you were obsessively looking for Elizabeth Moss’s husband in every frame. Unfortunately, Evil Eye does no such thing and makes its 90-minute runtime feel like two hours.