'Blue Elephant: Dark Whispers' ('El Feel-el Azra’a 2'): Film Review

Courtesy of MAD Solutions
Schlocky good fun earned with high production values.

Marwan Hamed’s ('The Yacoubian Building') psychedelic horror sequel made its EFM market premiere in Berlin after becoming a pan-Arab hit and the highest-grossing Egyptian film of all time.

A psychiatrist for the criminally insane, Dr. Yehia Rashed (Karim Abdel Aziz), is called out of early retirement, where he vanished after his exertions in the original The Blue Elephant (2014), to deal with a young murderess who appears to have supernatural powers. In Blue Elephant: Dark Whispers (El Feel-el Azra’a 2)director Marwan Hamed (who made his name internationally with his acclaimed first film The Yacoubian Building) turns a basically schlocky horror tale into a wild fantasy ride that benefits from more CGI than Egyptian movies have ever seen and a mesmerizing star turn by Hend Sabry as a possessed society woman who killed her child and husband.

Released last summer to the tune of over $6 million, the sequel racked up the highest box office gross ever recorded for an Egyptian production and mopped up in five Arab countries. it made its market premiere at the EFM in Berlin.

As over-the-top as its predecessor, which was also based on a novel by screenwriter Ahmed Mourad, Blue Elephant: Dark Whispers stakes out its territory from the opening scene when Farida (Sabry) arrives in a hospital for the criminally insane after killing her family in a moment of madness. She’s hidden under a medieval-looking hooded cloak and refuses to talk to anyone other than Dr. Yehia, who married her best friend Lobna (Nelly Karim) in the first film. During their encounter across a thick wall of glass, she warns him that Lobna is also possessed and will soon kill him and the couple’s two children.

To make things more difficult for Yehia, she informs him he mustn’t fall asleep for the next three days and nights if he wants to save his family. Luckily, he has a pusher who procures three “blue elephants” for him, tiny pills that not only keep him awake but open his creative mind. His wild and fanciful hallucinations are imaginatively rendered as psychedelic fantasies by the film's alert CGI crew and the art department, offering some respite from the silliness of the story.

The other great attraction is Sabry, a Tunisian actress (Nora’s Dream) who works mostly in Egypt. She gives the villainess Farida an ambivalent human side and hands Dr. Yehia a nightmare of female power to contend with. Her ability to stand on the walls and ceiling is creepy, but that’s not the half of it.

Karim Abdel Aziz is amusing enough as the sleep-deprived, drug-addled hero who has a lot on his plate as he wades through magic spells, hallucinations and “indecipherable” clues which the audience gets before he does. His cool look and sophisticated wardrobe serve him well at a private club where women throw themselves at him; one might suppose he’s a bit bored with the tameness of family life. The Farida case offers him plenty of supernatural opportunity to escape into alternate worlds that Indiana Jones would have enjoyed, full of wild animals, swarms of locusts, pyramids and so forth. In one scene, surely tongue-in-cheek, Yehia opens the door of a toilet stall where he has been meditating and plunges into a parallel universe.

The most sustained of these sequences involves an ancient court presided over by a turbaned king and his queen (Karim again). A gypsy queen temptress (Sabry) dances for the king and runs away with him through the palace, while her magician husband (Aziz) pursues her.

Back in reality, time is running out for Dr. Yehia to discover a way to change destiny. When all attempts to exorcise the demon inside Farida fail (the fellow is immune to the magic numbers that did the trick in the first Blue Elephant) and Farida escapes from the security ward, our hero visits a kinky tattoo artist who is listening, most appropriately, to “White Rabbit.” He’s so out of it, he doesn’t notice Farida is the client getting a new tattoo. 

Production company: Synergy Films
Cast: Karim Abdel Aziz, Nelly Karim, Hend Sabry, Eyad Nassar
Director: Marwan Hamed
Screenwriter: Ahmed Mourad, based on his novel
Producer: Tamer Morsi
Director of photography: Ahmad Al Morsy
Production designer: Mohamed Attia
Costume designer: Nahed Nasrallah
Editor: Ahmed Hafez
Music: Hesham Nazih
Casting director: Omar Seven
Venue: Berlin EFM
World sales: MAD Solutions

130 minutes