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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Dybbuk Review: Limited Chills & Insipid Writing But Distinctive Supernatural Story

Dybbuk is the Hindi adaptation of the 2017 Malayalam horror film Ezra, which starred Prithviraj in the lead also helmed by Jay K.

The film marks Emraan Hashmi returning to his favourite genre, headlining it alongside Nikita Dutta and Manav Kaul in key roles.

The film’s title derives from Jewish mythology in which dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the spirit of a dead person.

It supposedly leaves the host body once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being exorcised.

After a young couple moves into a colonial home in Mauritius, wife Mahi (Dutta) brings an antique box, which unleashes a malicious spirit and thereby torments their lives.

Having found out that his wife is pregnant, husband Sam (Hashmi) meets a Kohen named Marcus (Manav Kaul). Both Marcus and Sam endeavour to omit the evil force.

I have not seen Ezra The treatment of Dybbuk is quite fresh, for Hindi cinema, anyway. Therefore, this review in no way will compare or analyse the two versions.

Sadly, for some reason, there are not many Bollywood films that provide a voice for the Jewish community. So it is quite refreshing to see that. Plus, it is a sigh of relief that unnecessary have not been shoved in to enhance the ‘commercial’ appeal.

As a director, Jay K does not waste any time and sets the scene instantly. With the dim lights within the house, antique furniture and the secluded mansion, he creates the right ambience to exude chills.

But of course, there are the usual cliches of jump scares and jarring background scores. Somehow, even after seeing some great examples of Horror recently, Hindi cinema still has not grasped the true essence of eerie.

Sinister movies capture on the mind more than the visuals. Here, what we see is a rehash of creeps from previous movies like 1920 or any other Vikram Bhatt horror.

Whilst the spookiness might be lacking, there is no doubt that the story is worth paying attention to. The overall appeal initially seems like a typical Supernatural film, but as it progresses, the narrative takes audiences by surprise.

Having said that though, whilst the story itself begs our attention, the character writing and screenplay lacks depth. There are several backstories that are just mentioned and do not delve into the profound emotions of characters.

Character development lacks the most between the lead couple. Somehow the love and chemistry seem to be quite lukewarm. There seems to be a lot of unsaid sentiments between them which are left unexplored.

As viewers, we want to feel scared for the vulnerable couple. But due to weak writing, the appeal is quite underwhelming. Though, individually, actors perform decently.

Emraan, who is no stranger to the genre, gets to immerse himself in the style of cinema. In many ways, Dybbuk feels like a culmination of his previous horror works and he delivers.

Nikita Dutta is a promising fresh face and she has done pretty well so far. Foraying into horror certainly is not easy but whenever she gets to enact the style, she does a decent job.

The saviour though, for me, is Manav Kaul. Kaul always exudes charm through his characters. Even in an intense role like this, he never fails to dominate the screen with his presence. His entry in the film lifts it up higher.

Watchers of Ezra will be able to discuss how ‘impactful’ both the movies are.  However, is Dybbuk the scare-fest it sets out to be? Perhaps not.

⭐⭐.5 (2.5/5 stars)

Dybbuk streams on Amazon Prime Video.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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