If you are anything like me, you will know that the start of October means one very important thing: a plethora of newly released horror movies. Amazon Prime is catering to horror movie fanatics with their new film series called “Welcome to the Blumhouse” perfect for this Halloween season. The final film in the series which released on Oct. 13, titled “Evil Eye” and directed by siblings Rajeev and Elan Dassani, is based on an audio play by Madhuri Shekar. “Evil Eye” draws upon South Asian culture and mythology to tell the story of a mother apprehensive of her daughter’s new, seemingly perfect romance.
The movie tells the story of 29-year-old New Orleans-based Pallavi Kharti (Sunita Mani), who struggles with the pressure of finding a good husband because of her Delhi-based mother, Usha (Sarita Choudhury). Usha, a practicing Hindu and strong believer in astrology, insists that her “cursed” daughter wear a charm bracelet to protect herself from the curse of the evil eye. Pallavi goes on to meet Sandeep Patel (Omar Maskati), a tech developer with money to spare. Usha is wary of Sandeep being a reincarnation of her own deceased boyfriend from years ago, and fears that Pallavi will face the same violent relationship that she once did. Frustrated with her mother’s superstitions and comfortable in her relationship, Pallavi removes her protective charm, only to quickly spiral into a state of helplessness.
Unlike most horror movies, “Evil Eye” does not utilize the typical tropes of haunted houses, possessive demons or gory violence, and is instead rooted in the horror of abusive relationships – something that is grounded in reality rather than paranormal activity. This choice makes the movie even more chilling. While ghost stories can be terrifying, they ultimately come across as unbelievable, causing them to lose some of their fear factor. “Evil Eye,” however, draws upon a horror found in the real world and situates it in the realm of possibility.
While the concept itself is strong, the execution tends to fall flat — especially as it relates to the genre of horror. Like many scary movies, “Evil Eye” begins in a place of blissful unawareness of terrors to come. However, this oblivion lasts a bit too long. For about the first hour of the movie, I found myself waiting for the surface to break, for that drop of conflict that sends the movie spiraling into panic. That moment didn’t come. Rather, the only point of extreme conflict arises during the climax of the movie, which was within the final 10 minutes. The rest of the movie read like exposition, sometimes hinting at the beginning of a conflict but never daring to take the plunge. “Evil Eye” seems unaware of its own ability to scare and fails to produce the adrenaline rush many horror movie fans crave.
While it does not necessarily scare, “Evil Eye” does tell a touching story of a mother who will do anything and everything for her daughter. The mother-daughter relationship becomes central to the story, as Usha goes against logic to listen to her maternal instinct and protect Pallavi. Ultimately, “Evil Eye” becomes a story not of fear, but of maternal love and female independence as Pallavi and Usha unite to become a site of feminine empowerment.
Despite the underwhelming build throughout the film, the actors provided a moving and convincing performance. Mani delivers in her representation of Pallavi, portraying her in all her confident, supportive and naive glory. Maskati is the perfect unsuspecting villain, and Bernard White as Pallavi’s father brings a delicate touch of humor to an otherwise dark film. The standout is Choudhury as Usha, who constantly walks the line between rightfully worried and totally paranoid. Choudhury brings the character of Usha to full bloom and serves as a representation of female strength.
“Evil Eye” does a fantastic job telling the story of a mother’s limitless protection and love. However, it falls short of being the next spine-chilling blockbuster. While the film certainly has many positives, such as the inclusion of South Asian mythology and the element of female empowerment, it fails to categorize itself as a true horror movie. If you are looking for a movie this Halloween season to scare you out of your mind, I wouldn’t add this film to your list. But, if you are simply looking for a film to entertain, “Evil Eye” is certainly worth the watch.
LiBrandi’s article features in a four-part review of films from the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series. Read the other three articles here.