Evil Eye (Mal de Ojo, 2022)
Director (and co-writer): Isaac Ezban
Cast: Paola Miguel, Ofelia Medina, Samantha Castillo, Arap Bethke, Ivanna Sofia Ferro, Paloma Alvamar, Mauro Gonzalez
Witches, fairy tales and parables, children in peril, creepy grandmother and a big house: All of them a good element to making a good horror. Evil Eye is a Mexican witchcraft horror film that plays with the parable reflected in real life and follows a young adolescent Nala who is forced to go to her estranged grandmother’s house because her younger sister Luna is sick and her parents are seeking more help. As she gets there, the most interesting is the housemaid’s story about three sisters and their encounter with a witch and the central message that everything is an exchange: they give you something and will take something back.
Evil Eye is an odd horror film to talk about. Its first part is unsettling and sets up a really great backdrop to what to anticipate. There’s a few jumpscares that are effective because the atmosphere is done so well. The second act feels a little more overdone as its a battle between the different values between the young city girl of Nala versus the elderly grandmother’s controlling nature which carries a hidden plot as Nala starts to find her increasingly bizarre and starts to see the connection with the story she heard versus her grandmother. In films like this, a lot of times it takes the path of the unexpected which makes the audience guess whether its just a misdirection as it plays up on the grandmother’s strong personality to bring her granddaughter up her own way so to see it going that extra step makes it a lot creepier. We’ve seen creepy grandmothers who own up to them in films like The Visit but Evil Eye takes a different direction and the final reveal as all the pieces come together makes for a pretty impressive final act and a rather bleak one to say the least as it brings in an element about moving from adolescent to adulthood.
Evil Eye as a whole is a pretty impressive film and it uses its elements pretty well. The cinematography and sound design also does pretty good to create a creepy and spine-tingling atmosphere. There are some fantastic design in terms of the witch design and the whole concept of how the witch works. Its a little sad that the witch’s appearance isn’t used more and rather the middle segment drags a little with the whole push and pull energy between Nala and her grandmother. It feels like it goes a step too much plus the grandmother brings in these moments of over the top expression and in some ways, it takes away a little from the initial mystery and sinister feeling that has been hanging in the air at times.
With that said, this film is centered around young actress Paola Miguel who plays Nala and she does a pretty great job. Much like Ivanna Sofia Ferro who plays her younger sister Luna. Nala is a pretty good character and reminds us a little of films like Pan’s Labyrinth, with their young female protagonist stepping into all kinds of dangers that going way over her head without the necessary protection that she needs. She’s a strong character and through all her jealousy towards her younger sister, the family and sisterhood element comes up even if she also has this helpless and misunderstood side because she’s against a much stronger and evil force.
Overall, Evil Eye has its little flaws here and there but the messages that it carries and the execution is pretty great overall. The setting in the big house and the surrounding area also have a character of its own as it amplifies the sinister atmosphere in its emptiness and solitude. While it carries multiple horror elements, they do blend very well together. Its always fun to see a parable-style film and in the vein of witches which seem to be a rising trend in both regards. Mexico seems to be a breeding ground for these types of films in general with Pan’s Labyrinth to Tigers Are Not Afraid and now this. While this one is more grounded in reality, there’s still a whole debate whether the tale told actually happened.