Dybukk Movie Review: A dash of novelty in an otherwise dispirited horror film
While it is a welcome sight… and sound that the actors are not really hamming it away in this horror film, the performances definitely needed to be a lot more convincing
Hear me out... Dybukk has the potential to be a fun party game. Imagine you are sitting with your friends, and one of them suggests watching Dybukk for the spook factor. Of course, you need to reassess your friendship with that person, but nevertheless to make things a bit more interesting than what is unfolding on the screen, regale yourselves with the game of “spot the jump scare from a mile.” It is such a win-win game that everyone goes home happy after feeling the sweet taste of victory and satisfaction. That feeling isn’t coming from this Emraan Hashmi-starrer anyway.
To be fair, the problem with Dybukk isn’t really the lack of novelty. In this film, the usual flashbacks of a ghost interestingly revolve around the less-explored Jewish community. Instead of our usual Hindu-Muslim-Christian exorcists, we have Rabbis taking care of exorcising ghosts of the future past. But even this semblance of novelty wears off because it all still reminds us of the same. The language of incantations might have changed, but almost every other beat is the same.
Director: Jay K
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Nikita Dutta, Manav Kaul
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Dybukk, a largely faithful remake of the 2017 Malayalam film Ezra, is directed by Jay K, who also helmed the original. While Ezra was set in Mumbai and Fort Kochi, Dybukk literally goes places as the film is set in Mauritius. The film is essentially about how a small box entwined with Jewish folklore wreaks havoc in the lives of Sam Issac (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi (Nikita Dutta). When we see a bored woman bringing something straight out of the Manichithrathazhu/Bhool Bhulaiya universe into their living rooms, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what’s going to happen next (Refer to the fun party game). And like Murphy’s law, everything that has to go wrong does so, but thankfully, in a very subdued fashion. This is something that stood out in Ezra too. Despite the possibilities of going overboard with the scares and reactions, Jay K prefers his actors taking it a couple of notches lower.
While it is a welcome sight… and sound that the actors are not really hamming it away in this horror film, the performances definitely needed to be a lot more convincing. When Mahi is forced to run around the house after a supernatural presence makes their… presence felt, it feels like she isn’t really THAT scared about it. No wonder, the ghosts are pretty livid with her. Even Hashmi, a horror genre regular, seems uninterested in the happenings. Manav Kaul as the rabbi who sorts out things has a lot of fun in a role that doesn’t quite give him a lot to do.
Despite the director of the original helming this remake, the film's... if I may… soul goes missing in Dybukk. While setting Ezra in Fort Kochi allowed the rich Jewish tradition of the city to seep into the film, the Mauritius of Dybukk does very little to enhance the proceedings. It could have been Mahabaleshwar for all we care. When ghosts come a calling, we aren’t really interested in the leads helping them find salvation. When Sam and Mahi are tormented by paranormal presence, we are never really invested in the trauma they are going through. Their nonchalance towards the presence reflects in our feelings towards the film too, and this lack of investment despite the dash of novelty is what ultimately buries Dybukk under its own weight.