Released: 13th October
Seen: 20th October
The “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series on Amazon Prime has been something of an underwhelming series of films but I want to make one thing clear about the entire concept before we begin this final entry… I genuinely love that Blumhouse looked to four minority groups, mostly women and POC and handed them a budget to make a horror film while casting from underrepresented groups. Even if the films themselves haven’t been great, they’ve all shown how easy it is to make a film with underrepresented groups and some serious potential from the filmmakers, two big things that excite me so much.
Every single one of the directors who were part of this series is talented enough that I hope they all have meetings with the Blumhouse higher ups so that they can get another chance to make more films, even if I wasn’t a fan of all of the films here I can still tell that they have some serious potential with a bit more practice. Out of all four films of this first run (apparently there’ll eventually be eight films in this franchise which is awesome) it feels fitting that the last one I see might be the best of the bunch, even with it’s kind of bad title of Evil Eye.
Evil Eye opens with a young Usha (Sarita Choudhury) running from and eventually killing a man who she had been dating but the relationship had turned seriously abusive. Cut to 30 years later and Usha is constantly trying to set her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani) up with someone because she believes it is bad luck for her daughter to remain single after a certain age. Enter Sandeep (Omar Maskati) who seems like a suave attractive well-off young man, the kind that Usha would love for Pallavi to be with… except there’s something off about Sandeep, something out of place, almost reminiscent of a man that Usha knew 30 years ago.
As a concept, Evil Eye is a slam dunk. Taking the concept of reincarnation and using it in a horror setting is fascinating and then throw on top of that how families deal with abusive relationships. On a conceptual level this is something pretty special and when Evil Eye really leans into the idea, it’s great. Seeing our lead, Usha (sidebar, hell yes for a horror film with a lead character played by a woman in her 50s, more of that please) slowly putting together everything and realising her daughter is in danger is compelling as hell and you want to see her save her daughter… at which point you realise she’ll need to take the roughly day long flight to get there and we hit our first big problem.
Most of Evil Eye takes place with Usha in Dehli while Pallavi and Sandeep are in New Orleans. On the one hand this helps the story because Usha only sees small bits of Sandeep and hears about him second hand so there’s a good chance she might just be a little wrong about him but on the other hand, they’re so far away that it makes everything even more coincidental than it usually is in this kind of film. It also just lessens the horror because for most of the film, it’s all kind of second hand. She never has any awkward meetings with him, he never behaves in a weird manner up until the start of the third act when they need to find an excuse to get Usha to hop on a plane for a day so they can start the drama. Literally all that needed to happen was Usha and Pallavi live in the same town and that would’ve allowed more chances for tension building, which this film doesn’t really have much of.
With the two leads so far apart, we’re left with a film that’s basically just a series of long phone calls with an overreacting mother and this film could have been more interesting than that, the entire third act where they actually use the concept of Evil Eye fully is the best stuff in the entire film. It’s also the only time that we the audience are allowed to see Sandeep as something creepy. They play the concept so calmly that it feels less like a surprise reveal and more like a completely different film. It doesn’thelp that we don’t know enough about the guy from 30 years ago, so we never pick up on hints that they’re the same person but it makes the reveal unsatisfying.
What is absolutely amazing is the final act of Evil Eye where all three characters are in the same house and the tension we’ve been longing for finally turns up. That final third is tense and scary and effective as hell, to the point where it almost saves the entire movie. It really does make you wish that they’d just set it up so everyone was in the same country and we could’ve had more scenes like this, we could’ve had scenes where Usha tries to sneakily tell her daughter that Sandeep isn’t who he says he is. We could’ve had more moments of Sandeep trying to threaten Usha while hiding his true self from Pallavi, but in the end what we got was still pretty good.
Evil Eye is the kind of film where you have to wait for it to kick into high gear but once it gets there, it’s worth the wait. It’s lucky it’s also pretty charming for the most part and has a good idea that keeps the audience there even during the long periods where nothing much is happening. It’s good but you can see where a few minor changes could drastically improve it and while the ending has a lot of great moments, it does make you wonder just why the entire film can’t have as many moments of greatness.