© 2008 Ray Wong
I often question why it's such a fad to remake Asian horror films (some call them J-Horror but they are not always from Japan). Sometimes the remake is better than the original, but more often than not they aren't, and the original isn't all that remarkable to begin with. The Eye is a prime example of the latter.
Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) is an established violinist living in Los Angeles. She's also blind: she damaged her corneas at age 6 when she and her sister Helen (Parker Posey) played with firecrackers. With the advancement of medical technology, Sydney is given another chance with a cornea transplant.
The operation is a success. As Sydney adjusts to the world around her, with the help of Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola), now that she can see again, she begins to experience strange visions. Shadowy shapes come in and out of her vision, and she's seeing things that aren't real. At first her sister and Dr. Faulkner believe Syndey is just having a difficult time adjusting. Soon, her erratic behavior and conviction that something is wrong start to concern them: she's endangering herself. She believes that she's suffering from a condition called cellular memory, and that she's inherited the memory and vision of the donor, and she can actually see dead people and what happened to them when they died. She needs to find out what happened to her donor, so she can understand what's happening to her.
Jessica Alba (Awake) is a beautiful actress, but she has yet to convince us that she is a good actress. Unfortunately, she fails in The Eye. She is not able to rise about the material and give us a character that feels real and three-dimensional. Her portrayal doesn't have any depth. It's a pity. As her unbelieving doctor, Alessandro Nivola (Grace Is Gone) doesn't fare any better. His character is a combination of cliches. Nivola has nothing to do than running around looking incredulous and smug. There is no chemistry between Alba and Nivola either.
Parker Posey (Superman Returns) is totally wasted in the film as Sydney's sister. The history and relationship between them are flimsy and unconvincing, and then Helen simply disappears for almost the rest of the film. Her character is a complete throwaway.
The support cast also includes Rade Serbedzija (Shooter) as conductor Simon McCullough, Fermanda Romero (Carts) as a Mexican woman named Ana Christina Martinez whose fate holds the key to the mystery, and Rachel Ticotin (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) as Ana's mother. They're all fine actors with not much to do.
Based on the Hong Kong horror film Jian Gui, and written by Sabastien Gutierrez (Snakes on a Plane), the script is a by-the-book westernized adaptation of the original. The problem with the script and the story is that it has more to do with moods and actual plot. The pace is slow, and there is simply not much going on. The dialogue is tepid and the action flat. There are not enough forward movement and conflicts to keep us interested. On top of it, there is almost no character development. We're expected to accept everything on face value. The story is basically a big set up for the finale, and what a manipulative set up it is, making the climax feel more comical than dramatic or emotional.
Directors David Monreau (IIs) and Xavier Palud (IIs) also lend their hands in creating this slow-moving, pretentious film. It takes the movie over 40 minutes to get to the core of the story, and then the characters just meander with nothing much to do. They also employ really cheap and cliched tricks to try to scare the audience, and the result is just laughable. The ending just looks like a bad TV movie of the week. I'm not impressed at all.
I have to give kudos for them for keeping the story intact, however, and for making it relevant to the American audiences by setting it in Southern California and Mexico. Still, I have to ask: Why remake such a pretentious dud in the first place? I found the original boring and unremarkable, and I was hoping for a miracle in this remake. I guess I'm naive. What The Eye needed were a good script and a visionary eye, both missing in this case.
Stars: Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey, Rade Serbedzija, Fermanda Romero, Rachel Ticotin
Directors: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Writers: Sabastien Gutierrez (based on Hong Kong film Jian Gui)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing content
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 5.8 out of 10