The Eye

Cast:
Jessica Alba as Sydney Wells
Alessandro Nivola as Dr. Paul Faulkner
Parker Posey as Helen Wells
Rade Serbedzija as Simon McCullough
Fernanda Romero as Ana Christina Martinez
Rachel Ticotin as Rosa Martinez
Obba Babatundé as Dr. Haskins
Danny Mora as Miguel
Chloe Moretz as Alicia Millstone
Brett Haworth as Shadowman
Kevin K. as Tomi Cheung
Tamlyn Tomita as Mrs. Cheung
Esodi Geiger as Nurse

Directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud

Story:
Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) is a blind violinist who has been given a miraculous cornea transplant that allows her to see for the first time since the fireworks accident that took her sight as a child, but she learns that her new sight comes with a price in the form of haunting visions of the dead and how they were killed.

Analysis:
Nearly five years ago, Chinese filmmaking siblings Danny and Oxide Pang produced their ghostly masterpiece “The Eye” just in time to capitalize on the boom surrounding the remake of the Japanese horror film “The Ring.” While some saw it as derivative of “The Sixth Sense” with its “she sees dead people” premise, it was an extremely scary movie made even more effective by its impressive special FX and stylish visuals. (You can read my review of the original movie here)

The ubiquitous English language remake uses the same premise, but it’s become more about its “eye candy”, namely Jessica Alba, forfeiting much of that style and most of the scares that made the original movie work so well. Not that anyone should be too surprised, because the purpose for remaking these movies is that these ideas will seem fresh and new to the American teens who never saw the original, let alone ever watched a movie with subtitles. Maybe they’ll get more out of this dull and pointless remake.

Even with the story moved out of China, it seems far more derivative than the original, starting like “Daredevil”, ending like “Final Destination” and touching upon every single Asian horror remake cliché along the way, so even the original premise of an eye surgery patient being able to see the same ghosts that haunted the donor is diluted by visuals and and ideas from “The Ring”, “Pulse” and “Dark Water.” Much of the terror revolves around Sydney seeing the ghosts of the recent and soon to be dead, all escorted to the beyond by creatures called “Shadowmen”, but for the most part, the effects work in these scenes are shabby and unimpressive, mostly consisting of blurry camerawork and bad editing.

Surely, someone else should have seen the obvious hurdle of making a horror movie that relies solely on Jessica Alba’s acting abilities, which are akin to a janitor’s skills at emptying garbage cans. From her bored voicover that opens the movie, it’s obvious this movie will never be appreciated for its writing or acting—yes, some people do believe this stuff is important at selling you on a premise—but Alba isn’t particularly convincing as the movie deals with the human side of Sydney’s story, her learning how to use her new eyes, and in the scarier sequences, she isn’t much better than the worst B-movie scream queen. Maybe if they crossed the movie with Alba’s last one, “Awake,” and we got to watch her eyes pulled out of their sockets with her full awareness, it might be able to keep the viewer awake, but no, this is PG-13 horror, which means that even Alba’s shower scene is handled so tastefully that few guys hoping for a little skin will be appeased.

To make matters worse, far better actors like Parker Posey are wasted as Sydney’s sister, while Alessandro Nivola, desperately in need of a shave, plays a doctor who helps Sydney. While both are decent, it’s fairly obvious they’re in it for the paycheck so they can get back to far more weighty indie roles.

While the film does take many liberties with the premise as it spends time on Sydney’s recovery and ability to see for the first time, some of the same ghosts from the original are retained, including the “Have you seen my report card?” kid and the faceless guy in the elevator, neither handled in nearly as creepy a way as the Pangs’ original, replacing gut level terror with cheaper and more obvious scares.

Other than the ghosts, the movie looks fine, as David Moreau and Xavier Palud (“Ils”) avoid the pitfalls of remakes done by “music video director turned artistes” that we’ve seen far too often, though lacking the style and vision that made the Pang Brothers’ movie so unique. In order to mask the lack of any true tension, the film’s accompanied by an overblown score by Marco Beltrami that builds and builds to nothing in particular.

Since every American horror premise these days needs some sort of logical real world explanation, Sydney starts exploring the theories of “cellular memory” where transplant recipients experience aspects of their donor, and before you can say “21 Grams”, the film turns into Sidney’s search for her eye donor and answers to the questions we already know the answers to, having already seen the fate of the Mexican woman who gave her eyes in the opening. The whole thing builds to the same massive explosion that was such a mindblowing sequence in the original movie, but even with more money to work with, it ends up being more of the typical Hollywood effects work that isn’t nearly as memorable.

The Bottom Line:
This remake of “The Eye” probably could have been a lot worse – Alba could have been given the eyes of Carrot Top for instance – but other than that, it’s a dull experience, missing the point of the original movie being as much about its style as its premise. This one is more about shining the spotlight on Alba, who doesn’t bring very much to the table, making one wonder if this might have worked better as an hour-long drama with Sydney using her eyes to save people in peril each week.

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