Eye, The (United States, 2008)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The Eye is another PG-13 ghost story adapted from an Asian original, and that probably says all that needs to be said about it. Want more evidence of why is may not be the best choice for an evening's entertainment? It stars one of the most attractive, wooden actresses working today: Jessica Alba. It wasn't screened for critics. And the bad guys look like second-rate Voldemort rip-offs. Actually, all things considered, The Eye works well enough during its first hour that it might fool some viewers into thinking it's going to overcome those negative traits. Alas, the movie lives up to its legacy with a mind bogglingly dumb and disappointing final half hour. Once again, we are faced with a movie featuring an interesting premise and solid set-up that falls apart when it comes to the climax and conclusion.

I'm going to confess something I never thought I would admit: Jessica Alba isn't that bad. This is not to be confused with "Jessica Alba is good," which would be a lie. When she's playing panicked and scared, she's convincing. As usual, she has problems with more serious, dramatic scenes and there are a few too many of these for her to sail through The Eye. She is also immeasurably helped by the fact that her co-stars, Alessandro Nivola and Parker Posey, apparently gave their performances while heavily sedated. Alba outacts them, which is more a commentary on their work than hers. But the fringe benefit of merely watching her takes away some of the sting of enduring her "serious dialogue" with Nivola's comatose psychiatrist.

Ever since the Val Kilmer/Mira Sorvino movie At First Sight presented some tantalizing glimpses into what it might be like for blind person to gain sight, I have been waiting for another movie to take this premise in an interesting direction. The Eye certainly does that, although perhaps not in the direction I was expecting. Nevertheless, this is the kind of material that adapts easily to a horror scenario. The problem with The Eye is the territory into which the plot eventually rambles. The less said about the ending, the better. It's stupid and insulting and makes a mockery of everything that comes before it. Other than that, it's okay.

For Sydney Wells (Alba), renowned concert violinist and all-around nice girl, every day is to be treasured, even if she can't see the world around her. Blind since the age of five, she has learned to live through her other senses. But that's about to change. Her sister, Helen (Parker Posey), who feels responsible all these years later for Sydney's infirmity, has arranged for a cornea transplant. So Sydney goes into the hospital blind and emerges sighted. But, although all the tests are normal, Sydney is convinced something has gone wrong. She is suffering from Haley Joel Osment syndrome: she can see dead people. And the better her sight becomes, the more horrific her visions are. Her apartment changes before her eyes. Voldemort look-alikes hiss at her in the street. She stares in the mirror and sees another face. And restaurants she visits aren't serving the living any longer.

The film is directed by the European team of David Moreau and Xavier Palud, who previously made Ils, an import that got a tiny release last summer. They show expertise when crafting "boo!" moments. There are some instances during The Eye when even the most staid movie-goer will twitch in his or her seat. They also have a sense of style. The movie is dark and moody and its shady view of the afterlife makes one want to agree with Dylan Thomas. The Eye is at its most effective during the early scenes when we see the world through the prism of Sydney's unfocused vision.

The Eye's release will be a test both of Jessica Alba's box office power and of the continued interest (or lack thereof) in remade Asian ghost stories. This isn't a particularly good example but the films all seem to share one trait: an intriguing underlying idea that is trashed because of a poor script and mediocre execution. Had I departed this movie around the time that Sydney's friends and family are becoming concerned about her mental health, I might have believed this wasn't a bad little horror film. Unfortunately, the final act (the Mexico sequences) illustrate where to take a ghost story if you want to exchange old-fashioned horror for a grilled cheese sandwich. When it comes to showing something to end the second-rate horror drought, The Eye is blind.

Eye, The (United States, 2008)

Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 2008-02-01
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1