“Welcome to the Blumhouse,” a series of genre films premiering on Amazon Prime, hasn’t yet lived up to the reputation of its namesake. With last week’s disappointing debut duo of lackluster thrillers, Black Box and The Lie, one might think that the only direction these films could go is up. That’s slightly the case when you consider entries three and four in the series, Nocturne and Evil Eye — with “slightly” being the operative word here.

Thus far, at most, “Welcome to the Blumhouse” has been an interesting showcase for the next generation of genre filmmakers, with Nocturne being the best example of this to date. This slightly unsettling work ventures into the cutthroat world of students at a prestigious music institution, our focus being twin sisters Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) and Vivian (Madison Iseman). Both are extremely gifted pianists and seniors at the school, but Vivian’s abandon behind the keys is contrasted by Juliet’s professional conservatism. That extra spark has Vivian going to Juilliard next year, with Juliet taking a gap year. It’s clearly a bother for Juliet, who eventually seizes an opportunity to surpass her sister and grab the spotlight, even if it has some sinister implications.

A debut feature by writer/director Zu Quirke, Nocturne is confident despite its downfalls. It’s fairly engaging, but viewers may find themselves wishing that it stuck with one direction. The film is most interesting when it’s dealing with the institutional politics and dog-eat-dog environment of the school and its students, and less so when it’s diving into the Faustian twist that leads our protagonist on her downward spiral. In part, it’s because the latter feels shoehorned in, while the former feels fully realized. But in order to make room for the extra genre sauce, Nocturne slightly forgets the rooted drama that makes it so interesting in the first place.

If Nocturne is one step forward, then Evil Eye is two steps back. The film, directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani and based on the Audible audio play by Madhuri Shekar (who also writes the script), is an inert mess of storytelling. In it, we follow a superstitious mother named Usha (Sarita Choudhury), who becomes increasingly suspicious of her daughter’s new boyfriend, convinced that he is linked to a painful relationship from her own past.

Sunita Mani plays Pallavi, Usha’s daughter, with Omar Maskati playing new boyfriend, Sandeep. Choudhury and Mani share many scenes together, but only in conversation, as they’re always talking over the phone (Usha lives in Delhi, while Pallavi lives in New Orleans). As a result, their performances suffer from lack of a true screen partner. There’s one pivotal scene that is designed to come off as incredibly dramatic and shocking, but it just ends up being laughable for how stagnant the dialogue exchanges are.

Essentially, all of Evil Eye is spent wondering if Usha’s suspicions will end up being true, but when we finally reach the climax, it’s a fairly unmonumental revelation. That’s a shame, because the film tries really hard to interweave a meaningful message about the generational effects of trauma upon women by terrible men, and it does — it’s just unfortunate that message was delivered in a package as dull as this movie.

Summary
So far, "Welcome to the Blumhouse" is just barely batting .250 with its four to-date releases, and we're only halfway through.
52 %
Still Feeling Unwelcomed
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