Warning: Spoilers ahead for Amazon's Evil Eye.
When we talk about the concept of karma, we often think of it very simply: what we sow, we will also reap. But in many cultures, the idea is much more complicated, explaining the spiritual principle through a lens that is as meta as it is practical. One of the eight new films in Amazon Studio's cinematic partnership with Blumhouse Productions, Madhuri Shekar's Evil Eye expertly explores the abstract of karma through the tumultuous bond between an Indian woman and her daughter, hinting that the most terrifying horrors may occur as a result of our own actions.
Several oceans may be separating helicopter mom Usha (the brilliant Sarita Choudhary) from her daughter Pallavi (Glow's Sunita Mani), but her growing concern over her only child's status as a single woman in her late twenties can be felt all the way from Pallavi's home in New Orleans. They're of two different generations and cultures — Usha holding to her conservative Delhi roots and Pallavi to her perspective as an Americanized millennial — and each long distance phone call strains their relationship further.
Just as Usha is coaxing (read: nagging) her daughter into going on a blind date with a nice Indian boy, Sandeep (Omar Maskati) strolls into Pallavi's life. He's handsome and mysterious, eager to be close to Pallavi yet holding back from divulging his own secrets. Even though the relationship is sheathed in mystery on Omar's end, the lovers get closer and closer, leading to a sudden engagement. Pallavi is thrilled.
Usha is horrified. She's convinced that her future son-in-law is the reincarnation of the possessive boyfriend who abused her throughout their relationship. Things ended badly between the exes; when Usha's former flame attacked her one night, the struggle resulted in her shoving him into a body of water under the bridge, causing him to drown.
As Usha's reignited trauma sends her spiraling into a state of constant paranoia and further estranges her from her daughter, we learn that she may be onto something after all; Sandeep isn't actually as perfect as he seems. Evidence of a carefully tucked away past begin to surface little by little — a string of exes who are too fearful to talk about him, a tendency towards emotional manipulation, a barely restrained temper. Slowly but surely, his upstanding image of a begins to crack.
A phone conversation with his future mother-in-law triggers the bone-chilling facts about Sandeep's true identity. He is in fact the reincarnation of the man who abused Usha in the past, and now that he fully remembers their tragic history, he wants revenge. Tricking Usha into flying to the States, Sandeep shares that he plans to remain in her life forever by marrying her daughter, issuing a thinly veiled threat upon Pallavi's life to keep her in line.
The three gather for dinner, but things quickly turn murderous as Usha reveals the twisted nature of their relationship. Realizing that he can't manipulate Usha any longer, Sandeep turns violent, attacking both women in a furious rage. He almost drowns Pallavi in the kitchen sink, but Usha is able to save her from certain death by intervening. She is injured in the altercation, managing to mortally wound Sandeep in the process.
After being rushed to the emergency room, Usha and Pallavi unpack their remaining feelings from the dinner from hell. The younger woman is still in a state of shock from the violent unraveling of her relationship, fearing that they've sealed the next generation's karma by killing Sandeep in another life, but her mother assures her that their destiny is to keep fighting for their lives.
"Men like this will always be there," Usha reminds her daughter sagely. "So you'll teach your daughter that none of this is her fault. And then she'll teach her daughter. And you will face him together."
Down the hall, the sound of a baby's cries fill the air, and the camera pans to a tiny newborn. Karma (and another reincarnation of their shared abuser) is coming, but there's no need for Usha and Pallavi to feel helpless — destiny always comes with the option to to fight back.
Evil Eye is now streaming on Amazon Prime.