Directed by: David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Starring: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey
Rated: PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content.
Parental Notes: This is not a film for most youngsters — the disturbing content may well be too much for them. Teens and mature preteens will likely enjoy it.
The phrases “remake of an Asian horror movie” and “starring Jessica Alba” are not generally likely to induce excitement in your humble reviewer. Much to my surprise, however, “The Eye” both is a remake of an Asian horror movie (in this case, “Gin Gwai,” out of Hong Kong) and stars Jessica Alba — and I actually enjoyed watching it. It’s not brilliant, but it’s thoroughly spooky. If you’re willing to go for a ride, it will happily take you along.
The story is very simple, as most ghost stories are: concert violinist Sydney Wells (Alba, “Awake”) has been blind since an accident when she was five. She gets a corneal transplant to allow her a chance at sight, and almost immediately discovers that even with her blurry and indistinct vision, she is seeing things nobody else is. These scenes are some of the most effective in the film, because we know more than she does — namely, that this is a movie about ghosts and seeing into the spiritual world. We know, and she slowly figures out, that she is seeing ghosts and the collectors of the dead.
Once Sydney’s eyesight clears, she continues to see things nobody else can. Her concerned sister (a woefully underused Parker Posey, “Broken English”) and her eyesight therapist (Alessandro Nivola, “Grace is Gone”) both think she just isn’t coping well with her newfound sight. But Sydney knows something is very, very wrong. She wakes in the middle of the night from horrible nightmares to find her apartment looking like someone else’s home. She sees apparitions in her apartment complex — a floating man in her elevator, a young boy in her hallway. Finally, she decides that she needs to find out who her corneal donor was to get to the bottom of things.
The script works best when we are seeing ghosts through Sydney’s eyes (in large part because those scenes spare us Alba’s flat delivery of the mediocre script). The other scenes and characters are straight out of the book of How To Write A Movie. There are the friends and experts who don’t believe our lovely heroine, the desperate attempt to avert disaster, the plucky child with cancer, the sudden change of heart that enables the plot to continue, and so on. There are also a number of illogical elements, starting with the fact that Sydney’s new corneas apparently allow her to hear ghosts as well as see them. If you can forgive the flaws, the ghost story works well.
“The Eye” is not an out-and-out horror movie — it isn’t filled with horrifying brutality or buckets of blood. There are a few standard jump-inducing scenes scattered through the film, beginning with the opening sequence, but mostly the filmmakers are going for dread, fear of the unknown, and the creepy idea of a transplanted organ behaving unexpectedly. These are not new tropes (there have been transplant horror movies since at least the 1930s), but “The Eye” puts them together capably.
Those in search of a creepy film sans the buckets of gore so prevalent in most modern horror movies should check out “The Eye.”