Dybbuk Prime Video Review: At this point, the horror movie introduction has almost become a meme. The initial plot details are indistinguishable in their stubbornness to think out of the box- here quite ironically since the ‘malicious spirit’ is literally inside a box. Here goes the couple where they are shifting to a new place together – his work involves him to do so, and quite unsurprisingly, her work is to nag and bring up conversations that should have happened months ago. How will they live without their friends and family, in a faraway land? And as always he will pull her closer and say, “Let’s start afresh.” Then all the freshness will vanish when their sweet little privileges will be challenged by a spirit while she’s pregnant (how else can you think of a horror movie without a pregnant woman?) Cue for more jump scares, dark scares, and a creepy maid with earphones.
In Dybbuk (a.k.a Dybbuk: The Curse is Real), which intertwines elements of Jewish folklore, there is a slow-burn waiting to happen, in the most predictably uninteresting fashion. Emraan Hashmi plays Sam Issac who moves to Mauritius with his bored wife Mahi (Nikita Dutta) because of his job in a nuclear waste disposal plant. Cue to a clueless sequence about explaining his work which Hashmi plays with the same tone-deaf expression when he is back home romancing the sweet way only he can.
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Mahi, who obviously has no career prospects or a life of her own (at one point when this question is raised, Sam has the perfect response to Mahi’s dolled-up interior designing plans- “Charity begins at home!”) visits an antique store and out of all the beautiful artifacts, chooses an ancient wooden box. Then she opens it and sees strange things in the mirror. (An introductory sequence with the box is quite enough to tell us what can happen to Mahi after all.) Of course, she is gaslighted by Sam until his masculinity is toppled in the smallest of scares one spooky night. Only after this is our man convinced- he needs to act!
Ezra (starring Prithviraj and Priya Anand), the 2017 Malayalam film from which Dybbuk is remade, had a setting that added to its foreboding. Still, the presence of the same director Jay K fails to replicate the prevailing disquiet in Dybbuk, aiming instead, towards jump scares and hasty resolutions. The question between faith and trust, logic, and science could have been explored way better than the intended theatrics of a pregnant woman possessed by a dybbuk because they choose only those whose body and soul are not in conjunction.
Cue for pregnant heroine to wear white clothes and roam around unwittingly with the same expression. Enter Manav Kaul as a rabbi forever starting his sentences with, “Hum Yahudi…” which translates to “We Jews.” Perhaps the director was able to foreshadow the terrible casting choice of an actor like Kaul, thus reminding his audience time and again that he is a Jew. The hat only adds to the laughs. Here he provides Sam with an ornament to keep the spirit at bay. If only.
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Suffice to say, the resolution- which takes its own sweet time to arrive, is extremely amateurish and hastily explained. Ideas are simply tossed without creating a point – be it the connection of the interfaith marriage or the nuclear waste disposal plant, which are tied up to serve the narrative only. It is, to a point, unfortunate how Jay J undoes the same film in his own hands, with a half-baked screenplay hastily tied together by irrelevant characters.
Hashmi looks as if he is disinterested in the film himself- there’s no spark, no curiosity in his presence. He could sleepwalk in the character of Sam, as the years under the Bhatt camp and Raaz franchise would show. Dutta’s wooden, one-note performance is a thing of embarrassment. Yet, she is also the most relatable – in her utter lack of interest in the proceedings of the plot. Kaul tries hard but comes off as unbelievably comic. There’s no saving grace in his presence. Suffice to say, Dybbuk is a glorious mess of a film that does nothing ‘out of the box’ for its second outing or for the horror genre. Unfortunately, the only aspect that ticks in is the amount of time wasted.