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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Eye (review)

Deadly Dull

Sydney Wells sees dead people. I see a dead movie. I’m not sure which of us got the better deal.

And when I say dead, I mean inert. Lifeless. Corpselike. Beyond the help of CPR or those electric heart paddles. I blame Jessica Alba, who “stars” as Sydney. We don’t believe she’s blind — staring vacantly into space from behind fake-cataract-lens-wearing eyes doesn’t do it. It’s laughable to imagine that she is a world-class violinist — she can barely exude the passion it requires to convince us she’s alive, never mind that she has a creative soul on a level that moves the most demanding music fans in the world.
And as for seeing the dead people, well, Alba (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Into the Blue) is very good at looking very good — she is unquestionably a beautiful woman — but she’s quite terrible at looking very scared, or very traumatized, or very determined to find out exactly why she’s seeing dead people in the first place. She’s quite terrible at making us feel anything for her at all. Except bored. She’s very good at making us feel agonizingly bored, which suggests that she may be in the wrong line of work: there are not a lot of acting jobs that intentionally call for a deliberate attempt to bore the audience.

Once there is, though, Alba will be set for life.

What happens is this: blind violinist Sydney Wells gets a cornea transplant, and she starts seeing weird things with her new eyes. Like the ghost of a little dead kid wearing bubble wrap who is, it seems, meant to be creepy, and isn’t. (The directing team of David Moreau and Xavier Palud may have to share some of the blame with Alba for the yawning blandness of the movie.) Like people in a Chinese restaurant who actually died weeks before in a fire. (This may be some sort of oblique reference to the fact that The Eye is ripped off– er, a remake of a Chinese horror film.) Like howling, shadowy spectres who accompanying the newly dead off to wherever dead people go when they leave this plane of existence.

It takes about 45 minutes — half the film’s running time, though it feels much longer — to set up what could have been set up in the first 10 minutes, so that we could move on to some real story. But instead we are treated to the dubious spectacles of Sydney breaking every lamp in her apartment because, apparently, seeing all the weird stuff is driving her crazy and she wants to be blind again. The lamps are new, a post-operation present from her sister, played by slumming indie queen Parker Posey (Superman Returns, For Your Consideration), who looks, if possible, more bored than we are. Her level of cinematic ennui is outdone, however, by the very fine actor Alessandro Nivola (The Clearing, Laurel Canyon), as Sydney’s therapist, who’s supposed to be helping her learn how to live in a sighted world and mostly just treats her like a pretty little dimbulb for complaining about seeing dead people: Nivola looks like he’s actually in creative pain here.

When we finally do get to something that’s meant to be story, and not storytelling groundwork, that turns out to be fairly preposterous, but not, alas, in that bad-movie way that is at least entertaining in its ridiculousness. No: After Sydney discovers who her cornea donor was, and why she’s seeing dead people, we come to an ending that is meant to be sad and ironic but just absurd and laughable… or it would be laughable if it tried just a little harder.

Oh, all right: I suppose screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez gets a dose of the blame for the tedious terribleness of the movie, too.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
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  • misterb

    Well, you’ve convinced me that I don’t want to “see” this movie. But the blind gaining sight is actually possible today, and there’s a great book out about it called:
    Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See
    by Robert Kurson

    full disclosure: I went to college with Mike May, the subject of the book.

    Interestingly enough – while learning to see as a 40 year old was difficult and extremely “eye-opening” for those of us sighted who may take our perceptions for granted, Mike never did see dead people or the future. The oddest thing may be that he mistook an overweight woman for a forklift.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, sure, the most basic premise of the film — the blind regaining sight — is fine. I had no problem with that. It’s the rest of it that’s hard to swallow.

  • MBI

    I could have watched a whole movie about a blind woman learning to see. Best parts of the movie by far.

    God, I fucking hate movies like this, where everyone seems to just a few degrees away from being human, and billions of degrees away from being interesting. It’s interesting to note that the American version of “The Ring” is guilty of a lot of the same things as its ripoffs, but it sure doesn’t feel like it because Naomi Watts brings so much reality to it. I’m not sure there’s anything Jessica Alba could do for this movie, but she sure as hell didn’t help.

  • JSW

    On the plus side, now that the movie’s out it won’t be long until they finally take down those damned posters that they put up all over the Toronto subway system.

    Seen up close, they’re just silly looking, with fingers coming out of a large open eye. From a distance, though, when you can’t see it as clearly it looks like a hand reaching toward a large, unprotected eye, which is far more disturbing.

  • Cinemaniac1979

    You’re forgetting that this is a remake of an equally bland and boring Asian horror film. I demand full retaliation! Here’s what I’m thinking…

    Since this is obviously a cheap post-“The Ring” J-horror knockoff that’s been remade for the states, we need to flood Asia with remakes of crappy knock offs of American hits. And what brand of horror are we Americans best know for? The Slasher Film.

    The “O.S.” (Original Slasher)–the one that spawned the rest–is arguable. Many credit Halloween, and some even consider it to be Psycho, but for the sake of serving this dish especially cold, I’m going with my personal favorite crapfest that spawned almost as many sequels as it did crummy knock-offs.

    Friday the 13th.

    So we have our movie. We convince Takashi Miike or the Bros. Pang to remake it, making it a continent-wide success (like Verbinski’s “The Ring” was here), then, hopefully, the floodgates will open and we’ll see Asian remakes of “Terror Train,” “Prom Night” and “April Fool’s Day”.

    And we can just sit back and laugh…

  • MaryAnn

    I didn’t forget that the original was bland and boring — I haven’t seen it, so I had no idea. Why remake a boring film if you can’t make it better?

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