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The Eye (2008)

LionsGate Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/3/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/28/2008

Two quick facts about me that will then lead to a bigger point: Compared to most people that I meet, I have somewhat obscure tastes in movies and like many horror fans, I went through an Asian horror phase over the last decade. However, when it comes to Asian horror, my tastes are anything but obscure, as my favorites are "the big three" (as I've chosen to call them), Ringu, Ju-on (2003), and The Eye. While I enjoy all three of these films and find them all to be creepy, I would have to say that The Eye had the greatest effect on me, as it presents so many examples of great cinema. Thus, I had very guarded emotions as I approached the American remake of the film.

Jessica Alba stars in The Eye as Sydney Wells, a violinist who has been blind since the age of 5. She gets around fine on her own, but she desires to see again and agrees to a transplant operation. Following the operation, Sydney has limited sight and things are quite blurry. Still, she can make out shapes and she's both delighted and frightened by the prospect of seeing again. She is sent to see Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola), who specializes in helping people like Sydney get acclimated to the world of sight. But, it doesn't take Sydney long to realize that she can see things which others can't. She sees people who suddenly disappear and she's constantly seeing dark, wraithlike figures all around her. Dr. Faulkner tries to convince Sydney that these visions are due to the fact that her brain doesn't know how to process what it's seeing, but Sydney is convinced that what she is seeing is real, and she becomes determined to learn about the person from which the eyes were taken.

The Eye is a remake of the 2002 film from The Pang Brothers, and the story mixes some old and new ideas. The idea of a donor organ effecting the new recipient goes back to Maurice Renard's 1920 novel The Hands of Orlac, which has been filmed several times. (Renard also wrote a story about a soldier receiving an eye transplant!) The Eye adds a twist to this theme by having the recipient be ignorant of what the organ can do. As Sydney hasn't had sight for years, she's forgotten what it's like to see, and thus doesn't recognize the ghosts for what they are at first. Thus, we get a build-up as she realizes that she shouldn't be seeing these visions.

I was quite surprised by how much of the story from the original film remains in this remake. Aside from some small changes, The Eye plays like a carbon copy of the original. They even stuck with the ending of the original, which really shocked me, as it's not the sort of finale which we commonly see in American films. While it's nice that the original story wasn't ransacked, some of it probably should have been, because all of it doesn't work. MILD SPOILER ALERT! Sydney keeps encountering a young boy who is upset about his report card. The demand for academic achievement and the pressure felt by students in Asian cultures is well known, but it comes across as odd in the remake END SPOILER ALERT!

While the story of The Eye reflects that found in the first film, the overall tone of the movie does not. The Pang's film is a great example of how to build tension. When the character in that film first regains her sight, she's surrounded by blurry figures, and at that time, we don't realize that some of them are ghosts either. As her sight improves, we begin to see that some of the people are clearly dead. Also, the dark figures (reapers?) in that film are simply smoke-like humanoid forms. This deliberate build makes the horror set-pieces, such as the elevator scene, really stand out. In this new film, co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud show no capacity for subtlety or suspense. When Sydney first sees one of the shadowy figures, it growls at her. Oh well, that must be a ghost. There's no sense of discovery as Sydney realizes that she's seeing something out of the ordinary. From there, we get cheap jump scares at regular intervals. The elevator scene is here, but it feels tacked on. The original's other great scene, the "You're in my seat!" scene, has been changed and doesn't work at all. Moreau and Palud seem so determined to make a "scary" movie that they forgot to add any sort of atmosphere or feeling.

The Eye isn't necessarily a bad film, but as it sticks so closely to the original while adding no improvements, it reveals itself to be an unnecessary film. Jessica Alba is oft-maligned for her acting, but she does fine here. (Unfortunately, Parker Posey is wasted as her absentee sister.) The movie is well-made and the finale is well-staged, but you are better off seeing the original, which is readily available on DVD. This is the film equivalent of a nearly perfect song by a cover band. That's great that you can copy the original, but don't you won't to add a little something of your own?

The Eye gets to see DVD courtesy of LionsGate Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer is quite good, as the image is sharp and clear. The picture shows very little grain and there are no defects from the source material. Colors look fine and the image is never overly dark, save for when it needs to be to show Sydney's shadowy world. Fleshtones look realistic and the framing appears to be accurate. I noted some mild video noise in some shots, but otherwise, the image was very good. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an impressive track, as it provides some very nice stereo and surround effects. The stereo effects show good separation and the surround effects are nearly constant -- they really add to the scary scenes. The subwoofer action is also impressive, as the "shock" scenes and the finale contain a pleasing level of bass. This is a very good audio track.

The Eye DVD offers a selection of extras. The DVD features eight DELETED SCENES and there is a "Play All" option. The scenes are a combination of small, quite scenes and four additional "scare" scenes. The only one which adds any new information concerns the parents of the boy ghost which Sydney keeps seeing. In "Birth of the Shadowman" (2 minutes) Special Makeup Effects Artist Richard Redlefsen explains how an actor was used to create the "reaper" effects in the film. Dude, eat a sandwich! "Becoming Sydney" (5 minutes) has Jessica Alba discussing her role, explaining how she took violin lessons and learned to act as if she were blind. "Shadow World: Seeing the Dead" (8 minutes) contains comments from scientists and features a serious discussion of cellular memory and psychic phenomena. "The Eye: An Explosive Finale" (6 minutes) examines the fiery conclusion of the film with comments from Stunt Coordinator Peter King and others. We see how small-scale cars were used to plan the scene, and there is then behind-the-scenes footage of how the explosion was done. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, which is letterboxed at 2.35:1.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long