Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Eye

Jessica Alba develops a sick sense in "The Eye"

In a perfect world, all films billed as horror movies would be scary, Americans would stop trying to re-make Asian cinema, and Jessica Alba would develop the ability to act. Alas, this is not a perfect world, and "The Eye," the latest Western interpretation of an Eastern fright flick, is proof positive of this fact.

That's not to say that the idea behind "The Eye" isn't at least a little compelling. We have a young blind girl, in this case a concert violinist named Sydney Wells (Alba) who receives a cornea transplant only to learn that the organs she received still contain the tortured memories of their deceased donor. This, in my opinion, creates perfect fodder for generating genuine creepiness, and although I have not seen the Hong Kong original, I am going to surmise from what I've seen today that the original execution was more successful at this.

The problem with the Americanized version, directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud (two French directors who made another horror movie entitled "Them"), is that it fails in every way to properly build suspense. After about the fifth time of watching Alba wake up in a hyperventilating sweat from yet another scary "dream" sequence that would only be scary to a very naive toddler, I began to wonder if they were filming off of a working script, or if they decided to just film one scare gag after another and then whittle it down in the editing room until it resembled a real story. While there were a few interesting innovations along the way, there was no true sense of building action, and a few scenes made absolutely no sense at all. For instance, we later find out that Sydney's eyes came courtesy of a young woman from Mexico who committed suicide, yet one of the "memories" that Sydney has takes place in a local Chinese restaurant. How did the dead woman develop a memory of the interior of this place when it appears that she never actually left the little Mexican village where she died? Apparently the filmmakers just decided it would be cool to make Sydney have a freaky hallucination in a Chinese joint and then hope we would be too frightened and wowed to put two and two together.

Helping Sydney make sense of the images that are plaguing her are her sister (Parker Posey) and her doubtful ocular rehab specialist Dr. Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola). The doctor appears to be about two steps above comatose and one step from saying: "I'm only doing this because she's hot." Alba spends most of her time sputtering out weak dialog in an attempt to win him over to believing that she's not suffering from a mental disorder, and he of course goes along with it for no other reason than because the plot requires him to. The two of them eventually find themselves in Mexico to unravel the mystery of Sydney's hallucinations, and this ends up culminating in a climax that is so out of left field, so contrived, so ludicrous, that an attempt to apply logic to the equation could, quite possibly, open up a wormhole to the twelfth dimension of stupid. That is, if one actually cared enough to figure it out. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) we don't.

Even with its sleek camera work and competent special effects, "The Eye" ends up looking like a mesh of "The Ring," "The Grudge," and "The Sixth Sense," one that was glued sloppily together by ambitious school children. Or retarded adults. Probably the latter.

Gouda's Final Grade: C-

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