Nothing is more scary than an overbearing mother. At least that is what Amazon Studios, who has partnered with thriller-maker Blumhouse Productions on an eight movie deal, believes. Their assessment is a good one even if not fully realized.
In Evil Eye a superstitious mom burdens the desires of wedding bells and grandchildren smiles onto her unwed daughter who finally engages in a stable relationship. The twist arrives when the mother suspects the boyfriend is the reincarnation of the man who attempted to kill her 30 years ago. The movie is beautifully produced and has a most clever set up. Ultimately, that is all the movie encapsulates.
With its long, familial discussions, Evil Eye would have worked better as an offbeat family comedy than billed as a deceptive horror.
Usha (Sarita Choudhury) is a hopeful mother. She wants nothing but the best for her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani), even if that means mommy dearest must nudge her daughter into dating a proper Indian man. Sandeep (Omar Maskati) enters their lives and as Pallavi eventually warms to his cold eyes Usha sees something else. She is convinced this is the reincarnated essence of the man who attempted to kill her while eight months pregnant with Pallavi.
Evil Eye dodges and weaves with the whole is-he-or-isn’t-he mystery never building proper suspense. Any foreshadowing is entirely too light; the eventual resolution a shrug of acceptance rather than a sigh of relief. Written by Madhuri Shekar, who also wrote the Audible original the movie adapts from, Evil Eye mostly focuses on the trans-Atlantic conversations between Pallavi and Usha. Their relationship is a normal one, where the daughter is exasperated by yet loves her mother, while mom is desperately trying to warn her. Sandeep and his movements almost entirely stay in the background with any revelation (like – surprise! – an engagement!) breaking between their convos. Any of the horror, thrills, and even true mystery, comes too late in the game to warrant a roll of the dice.
Directed by newcomers Elan and Rajeev Dassani, Evil Eye looks modern, sleek, and fun. Jumping between a non-touristy New Orleans to the mango-lassi colors of Delhi, the Dassani brothers establish location, routine, and family, using FaceTime as the ubiquitous deus ex machina. Likewise their camerawork is an artistic juxtaposition between intimate voyeurism and broad angles. Similar to the plot, the Dassanis appear to be more comfortable with light-hearted family fare rather than the mystery of the supernatural and grisly murder. Like many of their settings, the Dassanis favor the open and the airy, shying away from the dark and foreboding.
All three principal family members – Usha, Pallavi, and patriarchal head Krishnan (Bernard White) – are enjoyable, relatable, and normal. Maskati’s Omar is quiet and flat yet this might have been deliberate to keep the character understated. Understated, however, does not always equal compelling.
While the familial concerns drive the narrative there is always the loaded pause of something more; deeper. The Dassanis seek to play in multiple genres yet never fully commit to any of those styles. Aspiring to a clean ending is a difficult task without first getting dirty. Evil Eye is an entertaining drama but an unsatisfying thriller.