While it may be cliché to say it, the Asian horror phenomenon is officially dead -- and Jessica Alba
killed it. Six years after Hong Kong's Pang brothers unleashed the original creepshow, those horror bottom feeders at Lionsgate have delivered The Eye, a mandated PG-13 retread. While it would be nice to say that the time spent in greenlight limbo aged the frightfest and it's slightly hackneyed organ transplant premise like fine wine, the truth is that all we end up with is overripe cheese.
Sydney Wells (Alba) is a famed concert violinist. At the age of five, a fireworks accident left her blind. She tried surgery at age 12, but it didn't work, so for the last 15 years, she's spent her life sightless. Now, big sister Helen (Parker Posey
), who feels responsible for her condition, sets up another procedure. Sydney receives a set of donor corneas, and within weeks, she is seeing again. She's also having hallucinatory visions of burning people, suicidal school children, and a weird shadowy visage with a mouth full of ghost fangs. Seems the previous owner of these eyes died mysteriously and wants Sydney to experience the same visual hell she lived through -- and there is nothing our heroine, or her determined doctor (Alessandro Nivola
) can do to stop it. Article continues below
Paced so slowly that even buffet-bloated old folks will think it dawdles, The Eye is stupendously bad. To say that it wastes the talents of all involved suggests that the people behind the lens had some sort of confirmed skill to begin with. The team of David Moreau
and Xavier Palud
, responsible for the critically acclaimed French spook show Ils (also know as Them) seem to have fallen into the same stifling trap that most foreign filmmakers land in when translating their abilities to Tinseltown's idea of entertainment. Instead of showing the same expertise for suspense and straightforwardness, all we get is one embarrassing convolution after another.
The Eye is the kind of movie that telegraphs everything. While hospitalized, Sydney meets a young girl who is dying of cancer. Brave in the face of a horrible disease, you just know she'll play a part in our main character's increasing ability to "almost" see dead people. Similarly, a little boy desperately looking for his report card becomes a Grudge-like specter constantly haunting the hallway outside Sydney's apartment. All of this is laughable, announcing its intentions like a neon sign shouting, "PLOT POINT! PLOT POINT!" Even worse, the Ring-like resolution, where Alba discovers the truth about the peepers she's received, seems anticlimactic and antithetical to everything that came before. Without giving anything away, we learn that all angry banshees want is a little afterlife reassurance.
Alba the actress is her usual eye candy self, bereft of a single emotion that can't be shown on her broad, bow-lipped face. Even when mentally anguished, she appears one beat away from her standard Sue Storm whininess. She doesn't get much support, either. Posey looks like she's waiting for her paycheck to clear, while Nivola has the bedside manner of a statue. Apparently, when the recipient of some newfound eyesight comes to you complaining about a series of unnerving delusions, you're supposed to scoff at and then demean them.
Yet it's the lack of legitimate scares that finally sinks The Eye. It's clear that Moreau and Palud believe in the false shock theory of shivers. There are so many "it was just a dream" sequences, sudden jolts, and half-glimpsed phantoms that we're never quite sure where to focus our dread. And even after we decide, our directors reconfigure the spotlight. Besides, it's nothing we haven't "seen" before -- or want to see ever again.