The Eye (2008) / Horror-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and content
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey, Fernanda Romero, Rachel Ticotin, Rade Serbedzija
Director: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Screenplay: Sebastian Gutierrez
Review published February 11, 2008

Sydney Wells (Alba, Good Luck Chuck) is a successful classical violinist, blind since youth, who gets a cornea transplant to allow her to see again.  Adjusting to newfound sight after so many years without is a huge transition for almost any person, as the mind often needs to catch up to the flood of new sensations it had done without for years.  What Sydney didn't expect is that, in addition to the things she can now see that everyone else sees, there are people milling about that others with sight do not.  It soon becomes apparent that she is either seeing a spiritual dimension, or she's cracking up.  To find out for sure, Sydney is compelled to find the woman from whom she received her set of eyes, and uncover what is behind the mystery of the visions of death she sees in the world around her.

The Eye follows in the tradition of many other Asian horror films, featuring strange and disturbing visions that compel a protagonist to make a journey of discovery, usually resulting in the unveiling of a tragedy of another that has lingered to haunt the living.  Like The Ring, The Grudge, and Dark Water, this is a remake of a previous hit, the multicultural, international Chinese-language Gin Gwai from the Pang brothers, which has now been remade twice, the previous being an Indian production.  As is typical of Hollywood productions, emphasis turns more to jump-scares and disturbing images to propel the horror, rather than atmosphere and an ever-present sense of dread.  The result is enough to get the heart racing for those who like to be startled in their seat, but in the end, there isn't much you can take with you from the experience other than the imagery. 

Being that it stars Alba and Nivola (The Clearing, Laurel Canyon), you can probably guess this won't be an A-list release, created solely for a quick cash-in at the box office due to a low budget and a lack of competition from similar releases.  Compared purely to others in its genre, this is a standard horror-thriller, better than some, but not nearly good enough to garner crossover appeal to anyone who doesn't regularly dine on fast-food chiller fare.  Although once again miscast as someone of great talent, Alba does a fine job in that she doesn't hurt the film with her performance.  Other than her killer smile, Alba's acting talent consists of the one emotion she has nailed down -- the look of confusion. Given the fact that she is a woman completely inundated with senses she can't grasp and sights no one seems to understand, she gets to exploit her propensity to look perplexed throughout.

It should be known that I actually liked the Pang brothers original flick, although I sometimes feel a bit guilty about that given that it is also derivative to other films that were popular to the time.  I think the timing of the release of the films make their perceived quality worlds apart, if not the way they are executed.  This remake isn't particularly inferior to the original except for the fact that it is redundant, not only of its predecessor, but this is the kind of material that has been done in a variety of forms dozens of times since the Pangs version.  There's a difference in making a movie when there is a new wave of independent filmmakers testing a new subgenre and a purely commercial Hollywood production capitalizing on what are essentially now tried and true conventions.

Although a respectable entry given how awful most seem nowadays, it is still a rather average horror flick, more likely to tantalize when catching on late night cable than packing up the spouse and kids and pay big bucks to take in.  Unless you've been blind yourself for the past several years and haven't seen any of the films just like this that come out on a seemingly monthly basis, you've seen it everything The Eye has to offer already.  Only those looking for a few eerie, no-brain jolts to get their easily startled dates to cling to their arms tightly need apply.

Qwipster's rating:

2008 Vince Leo