I have to be honest. Walking in to see The Eye, I was prepared for the worst. I have yet to be impressed by any of the American adaptations of Asian horror pics, and Jessica Alba isn’t exactly an Academy contender with her acting. An hour and a half later, I exited the theater pleasantly surprised. While The Eye isn’t a fantastic movie, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, and very little of the film’s weaknesses can be blamed on Alba.
Based on the original movie, Jian gui by Danny and Oxide Pang (the duo behind last year’s The Messengers), The Eye stars Alba as Sydney Wells, a blind concert violinist who is given a second chance at sight thanks to a cornea replacement. Unfortunately, the eyes endow Sydney with more than normal vision. The young woman also suddenly finds herself haunted by images of fire, as well as seeing spirits of the dead and some sort of harbingers of death she nicknames “shadows”. Instead of completely freaking out, Sydney attempts to find out who donated her new eyes, and what the visions she is seeing might be trying to tell her.
Alba puts in a surprisingly good performance in The Eye. Understand, saying Alba is “good” is high praise. This is an actress who has managed to flatline just about every character she’s played on the big screen, and I’m convinced she gets work based on her looks instead of any kind of real talent. In The Eye, for the most part, Jessica puts her appearance aside and isn’t afraid to look worn throughout the movie in order to portray Sydney’s level of terror and fear at what’s happening to her. Above all else, Alba’s performance is believable, which is better than most of her other work.
The direction of The Eye isn’t all that horrid either, though stylistically, there isn’t much that separates this movie from other genre movies. The shadows that haunt Sydney bear a strong resemblance to the spirits of White Noise, while a shot of Sydney’s room, transforming into another room as seen through her eyes, looks like something straight out of The Messengers or The Amityville Horror. Thankfully, there’s no “creepy” stop-motion looking spirit haunting Sydney like so many of the other movies have made use of recently, but there also really isn’t anything unique about the film’s look.
In fact, lack of originality is what plagues The Eye more than anything else. Initially horrified by what her eyes are showing her, Sydney soon realizes that she’s seeing dead people, and it’s happening for a reason. Her quest to discover that reason starts to feel like an episode of USA’s Dead Zone series, only with Haley Joel Osment’s Sixth Sense character in the lead… if Osment was a hot young girl.
Unfortunately, The Eye doesn’t credit its audience with having seen similar storylines previously, even though I could name half a dozen pictures that use that same plot, and drags things out to the point of frustration. Within the first hour alone I found myself looking at my watch at least three times. The acting may be fair and the visuals are standard, but it doesn’t take long for the audience to start getting ahead of the story, and as soon as it does the movie drags on, even through its relatively short running time.
Ultimately, there isn’t much wrong with The Eye other than the fact that we’ve seen this same story told numerous times before. There’s just nothing original here making this worthwhile – which I guess we should expect from a remake of another picture. I just didn’t expect a remake of one picture to be so similar to so many other movies. There aren’t many glaring plot issues and the acting is fairly decent, but genre fans will most likely be disappointed by a rehash of stories they’ve seen before. Non-genre fans may find a little entertainment from The Eye, but even they won’t take long to get ahead of the movie’s story and will probably be yawning long before the credits roll.