Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Eye

THE EYE (David Moreau and Xavier Palud, 2008)

The Asian horror style is about two cycles old in the scary movie genre. Even torture porn seems to have exhausted its trendiness. THE RETURN, THE GRUDGE 2, THE MESSENGERS, and ONE MISSED CALL, all made four years or more after THE RING debuted in 2002, are frighteningly similar examples of this atmospheric approach's staleness. The less successful films are high on mood and short on plot, comprehensibility, and scares. THE EYE, an American remake of the Pang brothers' 2002 spooker THE EYE (GIN GWAI), copies these failings like a blueprint.

Blind violinist Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) receives cornea transplants to return the sight she lost in a childhood accident. New or restored vision can be overwhelming for someone used to relying on other senses, so Sydney visits Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola), an eye specialist, to help with the transition to the world of the seeing. Paul is abrasive in their first session and remains skeptical of the problems she claims to have.

Sydney sees snarling, ghost-like creatures escorting souls to an afterlife and envisions people burning to death in a factory. She is convinced that so-called cellular memories in her new eyes are responsible for these nightmarish sights. Sydney's only recourse is to find the confidential donor and uncover what the dead woman must be trying to tell her.

The Pang brothers' uneven but effective original had an eerie tone and less predictable beats in its favor. It also helped that this style seemed fresher when their EYE reached U.S. theaters five years ago. THE EYE remake rolls off Hollywood's Asian horror assembly line like expired goods that have been repackaged. Get the same old boring secrets and visual aesthetic! As bad as or worse than before!

Not that THE EYE could have been salvaged with a different actress in the lead, but Alba's wooden performance works to the film's detriment. She possesses two looks, blank happiness and hurt puppy. With such limited expressiveness, it comes as no surprise that Alba is more charismatic on and between the covers of men's magazines than on screen.

Having Parker Posey play Alba's sister is one of the strangest casting choices to come down the pike in awhile. The pairing makes about as much sense as Sydney getting the eyes of a poor Mexican woman who lived fifteen hours away and thinking that placing a towel over broken mirror shards on the sink means her sister will fail to recognize the damage.

Poor acting and narrative inconsistency and stupidity can be glazed over if a horror film has the ability to scare. Here's one occasion when THE EYE doesn't have it.

Grade: D

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