The Eye (2008)
Directed by David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Written by Sebastian Gutierrez
Produced by Don Granger, Paula Wagner, Roy Lee
Starring Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey, Rade Serbedzija, Fernanda Romero
Lionsgate Home Video
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Sydney Wells, who has been blind since the age of five, is now an accomplished violinist and living a life of independence in Los Angeles. At the behest of her sister, Sydney agrees to undergo a cornea transplant which will restore her sight. With the surgery a success, Sydney begins to adapt to using her newly restored sense with the help of Dr. Paul Faulkner and his tough-love approach to therapy. But Sydney’s return the world of the seeing is not without its problems, as Sydney begins to have visions of people and places she swears are not real.
Although Paul is adamant that what she is going through is absolutely normal, and that what she is seeing is simply her new eyes trying process the information, Sydney is equally adamant that what she is seeing are the ghosts of the recently deceased and the black-garbed shadows that guide these ghosts to the spirit world. Sydney becomes obsessed with finding out who her eyes originally belonged to, and as her visions become more real and more frequent, she sets off with Paul into Mexico and discovers that the local residents of the donor’s town called her Bruja, which is Spanish for witch!
As one of the latest in a long string of Asian horror remakes, co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud along with screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez retool what is admittedly an average ghost story to begin with for an American audience. Like a cover of a song that is already mediocre to begin with, this remake hits most of the same notes and recognizable chords as the original, but is stripped of the emotional energy or the charisma that made the original a hit.
Equally responsible for this lack of charisma is Jessica Alba and Alessandro Nivola. Alba, who reportedly spent six months learning how to play the violin and reading Braille, proves once again that while she can deliver a few lines the most important part is that she looks good doing it. While she pulls off a few pony tricks to convince us she is blind behind her dark sunglasses, you never feel a connection to her character, nor give any care when without any build up she has her surgery. Nivola, who will forever be known as Pollux in Face/Off, honestly gives one of the most inaccurate and bizarre performances as a psychiatrist ever. The brutally harsh treatment and short-temper that he exhibits when Sydney starts “seeing” things is without a doubt mind boggling.
While the original film, which is also called The Eye and directed by The Pang Brothers, had a subtle tone to most of the picture, which gave its jump scares and plot-twisting reveals just that much more oomph, Moreau and Palud direct with as much subtly as a bag full of bricks to the face. Their style echoes precisely the same in-your-face speed editing as Gore Verbinski’s take on Ringu back in 2002, right down to the flash cutting of images which would literally be seen later on in the movie. Now, instead of needing to give the clues a little thought, the entire puzzle is put together right in front of audience so that they can all smile as the little light bulb flickers on and they collectively “get it” at the same time. What is even more troubling is that Moreau and Palud, who both co-directed and co-wrote the sadistic and terrifying French film Ils, know how to build suspense and fright. Yet here, they pull off the bare minimum that will only ensure that the twelve-year old girls who are watching this as their very first horror movie will cover their eyes and be scared. If this is what we can expect of their American productions, let us hope they make a hasty retreat back to France soon.
Not only are the plot’s puzzle pieces a lot more obvious for this Americanization but Sebastian Gutierrez, who previously co-wrote the let-down of 2006 Snakes On A Plane and the look-how-spooky-we-can-be Gothika, doesn’t even seem that intent on creating a scary movie. It would seem, in fact, that he is much more interested in updating At First Sight for all the focus he puts on Sydney first being blind and then being able to see. His biggest faux pas, however, is his decision to completely water down the ending so it is more palpable for an American audience and the process changes the message that Sydney learns. For those who have seen the original and know what happens, be prepared to shout “oh, what the Hell is this?!” should you ever bear witness to this happy and safe ending.
However, Moreau and Palud along with Gutierrez to some degree, should not be completely blamed for pouring yet another unnecessary dumbed-down PG-13 horror movie into theatres to make a quick buck before being dumped onto DVD. No, that blame should be directed at one of the behind-the-scenes suits, executive producer Roy Lee. Does the name sound familiar? He is the man who is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the outbreak of remakes that have plagued this decade so far. The previously mentioned remake of Ringu? His. The Grudge? His. Dark Water, Shutter, Il Mare, A Tale Of Two Sisters, My Sassy Girl? All his! It is enough to make the blood boil!
What else is there to say about The Eye? Not much. The original film had some interesting ideas, explored the possibilities of what happens after death, and gave depth to what was happening to the main character, This remake seems only concerned with what happens on the surface and that the jump scares quota is filled so that a two-minute trailer can be cut together to attract the mallrats who are all to eager to waste their hard-earned minimum wage.
For those that have waited for this to come out on DVD, Lionsgate at least does not fail to deliver a packed special edition. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen along with the original English audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Spanish dub. Also included is Theatrevision, which is an English audio descriptive service for the blind. At first glance, it appears to be a forced gimmick for a release that centers on a blind character, but in a bizarre twist this track makes the movie even better, as the narrator who delivers the descriptions has more enthusiasm for what is going on than anyone else in the production.
The special features cover just about all the bases for what one might expect. The features start off with a collection of deleted scenes, all of which is nothing but filler that would have made the film last even longer. From there, a featurette on the creation of the Shadowmen shows just how the effects were pulled off. Jessica Alba is on hand to talk about “Becoming Sydney” and what she did to prepare for the role. In “Shadow World” the possibility of being able to actually see the dead is discussed. Finally, the cast and crew share their thoughts on the big finale explosion and what it took to set everything up just right. The disc is rounded out by the original theatrical trailer and previews for other Lionsgate releases.