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Welcome to the Blumhouse: Part Two – ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Nocturne’

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Producer Jason Blum has long been a champion of rising filmmakers. Through his Blumhouse production company, he has built a reputation for low-cost high-reward genre filmmaking that allows budding writers and directors to gain access to a larger audience.

His latest project is “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” an anthology film series developed in partnership with Amazon. All told, this series will consist of eight feature-length films, with four being released this October and the other four released sometime in 2021.

The first two in the series – “Black Box” and “The Lie” – dropped on October 6. One week later, on October 13, we got two more: “Evil Eye,” directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani from a screenplay by Madhuri Shekar (based on her own Audible original), and “Nocturne,” written and directed by Zu Quirke. Much like the previous two offerings, these films aren’t necessarily the sort of straightforward horror offerings that audiences might expect from Blumhouse, there’s still plenty here worth seeing.

Again, these movies may not be quite ready to work as standalone offerings, but as part of the grander picture under the anthology umbrella, they’re certainly sufficient. Each has its flaws, to be sure, but they also put the considerable talents of their respective makers on full display, which is a big part of the point. Yes, if you’re here for “Paranormal Activity” and the like, you might be left wanting, but there’s a lot more to Jason Blum’s shop. And like the first two films, these latest works are worth checking out.

“Evil Eye” is the story of a young Indian woman named Pallavi (Sunita Mani, “The Outside Story”) who is looking for love. Her mother Usha (Sarita Choudhury, TV’s “Little Fires Everywhere”) is also looking on her behalf, much to Pallavi’s chagrin. Usha is a traditionalist, seeking out matchmakers and astrologers in an effort to find a suitable arrangement for her daughter.

While humoring her mother on one such setup, Pallavi winds up waiting alone for the guy to show up. In the interim, she is approached by Sandeep (Omar Maskati, TV’s “68 Whiskey”). The two start chatting and wind up hitting it off; they wind up leaving together. Usha’s initially happy for her daughter and her new relationship, but it isn’t long before doubts begin to creep in.

She starts to see a darkness behind the Pallavi/Sandeep dynamic, with his behaviors evoking memories of a terrible part of Usha’s past – a former beau whose devotion turned obsessive and dangerous. And as more and more parallels appear, Usha begins to wonder – is Sandeep somehow that same man, returned to exact his revenge on her and her family? As her suspicions grow, her family becomes concerned that she is losing her mind. Is she? Or is her past returning to haunt her?

“Nocturne” is a story of sibling rivalry and the struggle for greatness – and the consequences born of that struggle. Juliet (Sydney Sweeney, TV’s “Euphoria”) is a gifted pianist attending a prestigious arts high school. However, her sister Vivian (Madison Iseman, “Jumanji: The Next Level”) is an even more gifted pianist attending the same school and already slated for Julliard. Despite her best efforts, Juliet simply can’t seem to escape Vivian’s shadow.

Things start to change, however, when Juliet inadvertently comes into possession of a notebook that served as the journal for a fellow student – the most talented of all of them – who recently took her own life. As Juliet reads through the scribblings and sketches, she finds herself changing, both in terms of attitude and in terms of performance. These changes put her at odds with a number of people, including her primary teacher Roger (John Rothman, “Bombshell”) and her sister.

Juliet wants what Vivian has. She wants the private lessons with Dr. Cask (Ivan Shaw, TV’s “Pearson”) and the attentive, handsome boyfriend Max (Jacques Colimon, TV’s “The Society”) and the coveted lead solo slot in the school’s annual concert. And thanks to the notebook, she might be able to have it – but at what cost?

Much like the first two entries in “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” these films never quite fully coalesce, feeling more like padded hour-long stories rather than complete features in their own rights. And again, neither of these is the full-on horror for which Blum and company are best known (though “Nocturne” probably comes closest of the four we’ve seen thus far). Still, there’s plenty to like here, with both films illustrating the talents of their respective makers. And there’s a consistency of theme as well, with both movies looking at the power of familial connection and the potential dangers that come with upsetting the status quo in those situations.

“Evil Eye” is an interesting look at the protective nature of motherhood through the lens of traditional Indian matchmaking, while “Nocturne” digs deep into the difficulties that can spring from conflict between siblings. In both cases, the sinister aspects of the story creep in through the cracks that form through a break in the family dynamic. “Nocturne” offers up the more traditional horror imagery – there are some striking, spooky moments – while “Evil Eye” relies more on creeping dread. Regardless, while both have their flaws, they’re both interesting offerings.

This is the last we’ll see from “Welcome to the Blumhouse” until sometime next year, with four more films slated for 2021. It will be interesting to see if the forthcoming movies will reach or perhaps even clear the bar set by these initial projects. They aren’t perfect, but there’s more than enough here to justify your attention.

“Evil Eye” – [3 out of 5]

“Nocturne” – [3 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 19 October 2020 10:11

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