A standard horror drama crushing hard on Jewish folklore

Story: A new job opportunity compels Sam (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi (Nikita Dutta), an interfaith married couple to move from Mumbai to Mauritius. Struggling to get over her miscarriage, Mahi hopes to start afresh in the foreign land. However, new beginnings spell bigger troubles.

Review: Keen to give her new home a heritage look, the wife goes shopping. At an antique store, an ancient box dated to the 16th century catches her eye. Intrigued by its mystery, she opens it, thus unleashing a malicious spirit. The box is a Dybbuk (pronounced as dibuk). In Jewish folklore, Dybbuk is a disembodied human spirit that wanders until it finds a host. The house starts facing supernatural occurrences and an exorcism is the only way out. Can the couple sail through?

Most of us are drawn to ancient ruins, abandoned homes or discovering personal belongings of someone else. Call it our strange love for trespassing on someone else’s life but all these things offer us a window into the past. The act of people opening archaic mysterious boxes is thus always interesting. Add Jewish myths and occult into the mix and we might get a heady thriller. Does that happen here, though?

Director Jay K has remade his debut Malayalam movie, Ezra, in Hindi as Dybbuk. Women aren’t objectified here thankfully. There’s no running around in thin lingerie or shower scenes. Huge relief! The story progresses smooth and quick. The jump scares are few and far between and while this is no Conjuring, the effort is sincere. Emraan Hashmi, Nikita Dutta and all their co-stars are good actors. Nothing is frivolous.

What does not work is the film’s mundane energy and failing to evoke mystery at every step. The over-simplistic storytelling tames your drive to discover. Even the wandering spirit has a strategy in place and that’s preposterous. You do not feel terrified as much as you’d like. The film itself seems too pleased about its Jewish novelty. Christian priests are replaced by Rabbis, who must perform exorcism. Various Jewish terms are name dropped frequently. We are spoon-fed things as if this one’s a beginner’s guide to Jewish folklore. It is assumed that no would know much about the religion.

Special effects are decent. Only if there was some surprise element to this mundane horror drama. Unleashing an evil spirit with a backstory is fine but can it evoke fear is the question.

By William Regal

Used to think I was a tad indecisive, but now I’m not quite sure.

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