Alright, here it is, the last of the four “Welcome to Blumhouse” movies on Amazon Prime Video. I’ve already hit Black Box, The Lie, and Nocturne, so if you’re interested in any of those, please check out my reviews! This time I’m looking at Evil Eye, directed by Rajeev and Elan Dassani, the story of a young woman who falls in love with a dreamy guy who her mother believes is the reincarnation of an abusive ex from her past.
To be perfectly honest, if this wasn’t part of a series of reviews I’d already committed to writing, I probably would have skipped right over covering Evil Eye due to it not really being a horror film. Despite its Blumhouse tag, this film really only has a marginal relationship to the horror genre, or even to the other films in this “Welcome to Blumhouse” series. Evil Eye has more in common with a movie like The Big Sick (i.e., a film about cultural clashes of old/new generations and 21st-Century American romance are two of the film’s central themes) than a movie like Get Out, another Blumhouse picture which shares similar themes of culture wars and whacked-out relationships. None of this is to say that I hated to movie or anything, but if you’re here because you want to know about films that are actually trying to generate some kind of atmosphere of terror, then let me say right now that there’s really no reason to watch Evil Eye.
After that last paragraph, it probably won’t come as a surprise that Evil Eye suffers from a bit of an identity crisis throughout most of its runtime. It looks and acts like a rom-com at times with its TV-Sitcom lighting and aggressively auto-tuned pop music playing behind the characters’ various one-liners, but still makes an attempt to build some sort of background horror tension. It’s… confusing, and I spent the first fifteen or so minutes wondering if there was just a lot of horribly misinformed advertising going on around this film. Now, to its credit, the rom-com and family stuff do sort of work on their own. If they continued down that line, then Evil Eye could probably sit as a sort of mid-weight “reconciling-traditional-family-values-with-modern-American-values” drama. Needless to say, it feels bizarre to argue on my horror film-themed blog that this movie should have just not tried to be a horror film, but alas, here we are.
One of the film’s standout aspects is the script, which feels surprisingly tight and sharp compared not only to the overall visual-storytelling of Evil Eye, which was depressingly lacking. Even compared to the other films in this Blumhouse series (note that this is mostly praising the dialogue, rather than the film’s structure, which I’ll talk about a bit more further down). Credit for this has to go to Madhuri Shekar, who wrote both the Audible Original Evil Eye and adapted it for the screen. I haven’t listened to the original, but clearly, Shekar has a keen eye for what she does, and this film is a testament to the power of keeping original creators involved in the adaptation process. The added benefit of this is that the script clearly gave the actors enough information and interest in their own characters to deliver impressive performances. This feels nothing like The Lie or Nocturne, where the acting was strong but always had a vibe of just “working with what they were given.” This is basically why Evil Eye works best as a drama; since Shekar really understands just how much to put out there and how much to withhold in any given scene.
As the film sort of trotted along through the first hour as a mildly-compelling drama with some potentially interesting commentary on the nature of projecting trauma onto our children, it then decides to undermine all of that as fast as possible. The real tragedy is that there is a way to do this film that delivers both those messages and also provide some good scares (once again, look at Get Out, or even The Invisible Man, another Blumhouse movie about abuse which, while far from perfect, had some genuine atmosphere to it). This failure is driven home in the third act, which drops the proverbial ball and then punts it into the woods. Evil Eye spends a lot of time trying to cast itself as containing some element of mystery. While it technically is for just about a minute, the way the “mystery” is resolved is so hilariously unsatisfying that I pretty much involuntarily put my palm straight through my face. Here’s how the whole supernatural-mystery is resolved, ready? At around the one-hour mark, the villain calls up one of the protagonists, apropos of nothing, and then explains everything. That’s it. Ugh. Nothing has ever screamed, “hey we need to get this thing done in under 90-minutes!” more than that particular plot contrivance.
So, now knowing the whole dastardly plot, etc., etc. the film scrambles for a way to wrap things up, trying at the last second to pivot entirely to not only a straight-up horror movie but also to force a few shocks and some kitchen-themed violence. None of these events strictly follow logically or emotionally from the film’s first two acts. Still, I’m sure they would come as a relief to anyone dying to see at least a little blood in this otherwise pretty tame experience.
Despite the Horror/Mystery classification attached to the film when Googling Evil Eye, I find myself honestly hoping that neither of those genres was the creator’s intention since neither is a field where the film excels or even succeeds. At its best, Evil Eye provides an impressively well-acted family drama with a light dusting of psychological thriller on the top, which serves as basically just the film’s B-plot until the last 25 or so minutes when it gets a severe promotion much to the detriment of the film’s overall quality. I probably would have enjoyed Evil Eye much more overall if those last few minutes weren’t just there because I guess the creators felt like they needed to pay off all those quick-cut flashbacks they’d been sprinkling throughout the film.
It’s hard to say if there’s anything particularly interesting to take away from this film. It’s just such a confused mess at times, but was clearly written and performed with a passion that I have to admit was infectious, even at the worst of times. I was never bored, but neither was I stimulated past the point of passive interest. At the end of the day I think I’d have a hard time suggesting this film to anyone other than those like me who were just trying to finish off the “Welcome to Blumhouse” series; and if you do settle down for a viewing of Evil Eye just know that if you’re looking for something scare-heavy (or think-heavy), then you are unfortunately not in the right place.