The Eye



Considering that it ranks as one of the best of the J-horror style films, it's surprising that it took this long for an American remake of "The Eye," originally made by the Pang brothers.

Less surprising is that this version directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud ("Them") sacrifices the quietly creepy qualities of the original in favor of ramped-up horror film techniques that by now seem distressingly familiar.

Starring Jessica Alba as a blind girl who gains both her sight and the ability to see dead people, the film opened Friday without being screened for the press.

Sebastian Gutierrez's screenplay hews fairly closely to the original in its story about Sydney Wells (Alba), a concert violinist blind since childhood who regains her vision thanks to a double cornea transplant. ("Stem cell research changed the game," a therapist informs her, in a not too subtly political piece of dialogue.)

Unfortunately, Sydney's newfound ability to see comes with a price. When the bandages are removed after the operation (revealing a surprising lack of swelling), she soon finds herself afflicted with horrific visions, involving both fiery disasters and a succession of vaguely menacing figures who are no longer alive. Needless to say, this results in a lot of embarrassing situations in which she sees things that are invisible to the other people in her life, including her sister (a wasted Parker Posey), her orchestra leader (a similarly wasted Rade Serbedzija) and her vision therapist (Alessandro Nivola).

Sydney eventually figures out that the problem stems from her eyes' donor, a young Mexican woman. Traveling with her therapist across the border, the pair discover that the woman had similar visions, particularly one relating to a devastating fire. It all winds up, in typical American horror film fashion, with a spectacular finale involving an explosive highway accident.

The filmmakers do an effective job of conveying the main character's visual disorientation before getting to the main business at hand. But though some of the sequences are impressively spooky -- like the one in which Sydney encounters a startled woman who has just been killed in an accident -- their effectiveness is marred by such overkill as the shrieking ghouls who escort the ghosts.

Naturally, the visions also are accompanied by deafeningly loud noises (why Sydney hears as well as sees them is a mystery), though in this film's universe, even the sound of a cappuccino maker is fraught with peril.

Lionsgate/Paramount Vantage
Lionsgate and Paramout Vantage present
a C/W Prods. production in association with Vertigo Entertainment
Directors: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Screenwriter: Sebastian Gutierrez
Producers: Paula Wagner, Don Granger, Michelle Manning
Executive producers: Mike Elliott, Peter Chan, Roy Lee, Doug Davison, Michael Paseornek, Peter Block, Tom Ortenberg, Darren Miller
Director of photography: Jeffrey Jur
Production designer: James Spencer
Music: Marco Beltrami
Costume designer: Michael Dennison
Editor: Patrick Lussier
Sydney Wells: Jessica Alba
Dr. Paul Faulkner: Alessandro Nivola
Helen Wells: Parker Posey
Simon McCullough: Rade Serbedzija
Running time -- 97 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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