Spiritual Horror Evil Eye (2020) is a Mother’s Worst Nightmare
Title: Evil Eye
First Wide Release: October 13, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Elan Dassani, Rajeev Dassani
Writer: Madhuri Shekar
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Sarita Choudhury, Sunita Mani, Bernard White
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Evil Eye follows Usha (Sarita Choudhury), a concerned mother, who only wants the best for her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani). The distance between the two, both physically and emotionally, already puts an enormous strain on their relationship. Everything is complicated further when Usha believes Pallavi’s new boyfriend, Sandeep (Omar Maskati), is the reincarnation of the man who abused her almost thirty years ago. Elan and Rajeev Dassani direct this unnerving tale of spiritual horror.
Evil Eye is a flawed, yet enjoyable psychological horror film that offers keen insight into the effects of intergenerational trauma on women.
The central message of Evil Ey features a solid cast with memorable characters. Sarita Choudhury is excellent in this film. For all her faults, Usha is a sympathetic hero that is determined to do right by her daughter. Her love and concern shine through in every hitched breath and verbal hesitation. While its clear she cares, the strained relationship between Usha and Pallavi works really well at drawing out the tension in the story. Omar Maskati was tasked with a difficult job of portraying essentially two characters: the perfect boyfriend and the secret abuser. At times, he was successful but there were a few instances to many that are awkward and forced.
A mixed bag at times, Evil Eye features a solid cast with memorable characters. Sarita Choudhury is excellent in this film. For all her faults, Usha is a sympathetic hero that is determined to do right by her daughter. Her love and concern shine through in every hitched breath and verbal hesitation. While it's clear she cares, the strained relationship between Usha and Pallavi works really well at drawing out the tension in the story. Omar Maskati is tasked with the difficult job of portraying essentially two characters: the perfect boyfriend and the secret abuser. At times, he is successful but there were a few instances too many that are awkward and forced.
The art direction of Evil Eye is quite middling. There is nothing extraordinary about it. The setting is often ignored. Both New Orleans and, to a lesser extent, Delhi feel like they could be anywhere in their respective countries and it wouldn’t matter. There is a lack of establishing shots outside of the home and it makes for a dull viewing experience. Additionally, I have some issues with the lighting. Characters sometimes are washed in darkness to where they are barely visible when they are meant to be. Sandeep emerging from the shadows of his home and Usha in her flashback sequences are good examples of this.
On a technical level, not many risks are taken. The flashback sequences are my main point of contention. From an editing standpoint, they feel intrusive in the film. The timing is never an issue in relation to the story, but it never quite matched the action of the film. It is almost as if they flashed onscreen before they had come into Usha’s mind or well after they had taken effect. It really took me out of the film in the beginning. By the time the sequences are longer, this issue is resolved but never really forgotten.
Evil Eye proves that the Dassani brothers have talent, but that talent needs to be honed in for their next feature to truly deliver a hard-hitting film. The choices in pacing blunt the impact of the film. The beginning, and often the middle, portions of the film move slowly while the ending feels rushed. It is unclear who the central protagonist is at the beginning of the film. It awkwardly straddles between Pallavi and Usha before settling on Usha, who is certainly the more interesting character. Pallavi’s screen time shrinks the longer the film goes on and the audience doesn’t get to see her point of view as the action escalates. With a tighter script and more consistent pacing, Evil Eye could have been a very solid psychological horror experience.
An extended metaphor for the cycle of abuse and its generational effect on family members, particularly women, the message of Evil Eye is painfully relevant and needed. This aspect of the film is both a strength and a weakness. I enjoy the fact that Usha is the one who recognizes the signs of a bad partner and doesn’t ignore it, as she is clearly the most important person in Pallavi’s life. While it cannot be ignored that this is due to her own past experiences with men, it also shows the power female relationships can have when they support each other. I wish, however, that Pallavi had more agency in the story. About halfway through, she is relegated to playing the rope in a tug-of-war game between Sandeep and Usha. If Pallavi had even a moment or two of doubt about Sandeep, it would have been a stronger film.
I can recognize the flaws present within Evil Eye while also acknowledging that the film unsettled me in ways I did not expect. It never feels like it reaches the true potential of terror the concept promises, but Evil Eye still acts as an important morality tale on trusting your gut instinct and, well, always listening to your mother! I appreciated how uncomfortable the film made me feel without resorting to extreme violence, which makes it more accessible to a wider audience. I recommend Evil Eye for fans of psychological horror and those wishing to support young filmmakers and writers of color.
Overall Score? 6/10