Mal de Ojo is an intense fantasy that manages to return to Latin American folklore its most important characteristic: fear of witches that could be closer than you think.
Considering himself a closet horror filmmaker, Issac Ezban is one of the representatives of Mexican science fiction most important in recent years. Well, through his stories, the director has managed to play with the local and international imaginarydemonstrating with more than one of his films the potential of Mexican talent and their stories.
The evil eye is his first horror film, with which ezban aims to explore topics such as fear of aging, conflicts and family traumas, femininity and the passage of timethrough an intense history that promises to become a classic of Mexican horror.
A fairy tale turned into a nightmare
Latin America it is a territoryico in fantasy and scary storiesnot for nothing is the place where the magical realism in literature and where folklore and legends remain highly valid despite the passing of the years. And it is that they are the local myths, the stories inherited from generation to generation and the secrets of the towns, which they keep alive the mysticism of more than one country.
The script itself The evil eye is inspired by Dominican Republic and its witches, which continue to be characteristic elements of the region. However, Ezban and the co-writers, Edgar San Juan and Junior Rosario, They decided to take the story to Mexican territory, to feed it with local culture and superstitions.
This is how it is born The evil eye, a story that focuses on a family from Mexico City, who decide to take a trip to the town of the maternal family looking for an alternative cure for its youngest member, Moon (Ivanna Sofia Fierro)who suffers from epilepsy and whose life expectancy is not very encouraging.
His sister Nala (Paola Miguel) is an adolescent who, due to the health status of the minor, is constantly ignored by her parentswhich causes fights and constant friction, especially with his mother (Samantha Castillo).
Here the first mysteries of the film begin to be exposed, because beyond the relationship between Nala and her mother, the origin of the latter and the secrets that she hides from her family will be vital for the rest of the plot.
So then, the family arrives at the grandmother’s house, a residence lost among the trees where we will meet the imposing matriarch, Doña Josefa (Ofelia Medina). It is since its introduction that the story will really start to gain power, dragging us through fear and curiosity about the woman’s true intentions and if indeed she is a witch.
One of the greatest virtues of The evil eye is that although he takes the time to explain the background and local legends, don’t neglect your main storyestablishing a immediate parallelism between the protagonists and the story of the tripletsthrough which Nala will connect the dots to decipher the mystery around her.
To do this, Ezban rescues quickly identifiable elements and very well documented in voodoo and black magic: the myth of the witches who leave their skin to go out in search of victims, the suffering of children as proof of the supernatural presence, the remains of rituals, among other things that contribute to a claustrophobic atmosphere, rotten and a feeling of constant imprisonment.
And it is that the way in which he begins to pose the clues, he really manages to induce both his characters and his audience in a entirely fantasy world, moving away from the mundane approach with which the film opens. Hence everything feels like a scary fairy tale and a nightmare where everyone is suspect.
Without dropping spoilers, the moments that take us to the center of the rituals are as attractive as they are terrifying, because they feel so real that the public becomes a participant in them. Each one of them draws inspiration from different witchcraft practicesso in addition to confirming the existence of such creatures, it proposes that a single story will not be the absolute truth, but rather a small part of a larger community.
an intense journey
can’t talk about The evil eye without addressing the great work of its protagonists, since the veteran Ophelia Medina really manages to create a character who, in addition to being mysterious, is terrifying and owner of a power against which a child cannot compete. She is strict, cold and possesses a wickedness so her own, that as soon as she enters the screen she catches the attention of the viewer, who is warned that she is the one we should focus on all the time.
Interestingly, although as the story progresses we see less of the actress’s face, the interaction with her granddaughters becomes more and more intense, especially highlighting the moments she has with Nala (Paola Miguel)), who manages to match the energy and emotional level of the grandmother.
Another of the people with whom Paola Miguel manages to generate a palpable tension is with Samantha, who plays her mother, establishing from the beginning a troubled mother-daughter relationship and that immediately makes it clear that there are more problems on the table than what we see at first.
However, although Paola’s performance is quite good to be his first film, his character can’t help but feel caricaturedsince it is initially presented under the cliché “angry teenager who does not take off the cell phone”, and without giving it greater depth until later in the story.
For this reason, sometimes it is hardly believable that Nala cares about her sisterwhom from the beginning he treats as an obstacle in his life.
Despite this, credit must be given for guide the public through despair and urgency with which his character pushes the story towards increasingly darker points.
Inside the skin of the witch
Although the messages that Ezban wants to convey with Mal de Ojo are clear, sometimes they get blurred under the story. For although the feminine energy is always present in the film, in itself the concept of femininity with which he intends to endow his final bow it feels free.
However, there is no need to subtract sensuality and possessiveness with which her characters interact with their male counterparts, who genuinely seem mesmerized by the spells and drawn to something that isn’t entirely human.
On the other hand, although the presence of the concept of aging is clearit really is not very clear the purpose —or the change of it— in more than one of his characters, whose intention we lose around the third act.
Apart from that, what the director manages to expose with greater success is family conflict and tensions that can occur despite sharing blood ties, ensuring an ending that leaves the audience restless: that even the person closest to us could be lying about their true intentions and that indeed, we are not safe anywhere.
At the end of the day, The evil eye is a cinematographic experience that promises to become a classic of Mexican horrorreturning to Latin American folklore its most important characteristic: fear the witches that lurk at all times.
Such experience is also achieved through its technical aspects, because the photography, the makeup, the practical effects, and even the musicconnect organically with the story, giving it additional mysticism and realistic tension.
Finally, although several of the turns of The evil eye are quite traditional and even somewhat predictable, in short it is a film that should be enjoyed like a good scary story whose intention is to guide Mexican cinema towards a new era of magic, fantasy and horror.
The evil eye premiered in Mexican theaters on September 22.
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