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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Eye
The Eye
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // June 3, 2008
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted June 1, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"I see..."
"...dead people?"

- that kid from The Sixth Sense
...oops! My bad! I mean Sydney and Paul

The Movie
There's plenty of subliminal images presented in this thriller, and I didn't have to wait long to figure out the film's big message...drink Lipton Original Iced Tea with Lemon! Oh, sorry...I was distracted by the shameless product placement, which is shoved into our face--repeatedly, up close--less than three minutes into the film, before the opening credits even finish.

Welcome to the latest in an endless line of tired American remakes of increasingly unoriginal Asian thrillers. If you've seen the U.S. take on The Ring (good, but overrated) or The Grudge (lame) or Dark Water (underrated, my favorite of the bunch)--and any number of other awful remakes--you've pretty much seen The Eye. Based on the Hong Kong hit from the Pang brothers, Gin Gwai (a.k.a. Jian Gui), it's yet another entry where a woman gets spooked, sees ghosts and has to figure out some random mystery involving a dead girl. (I'd say "Stop me if you've heard this," but then you wouldn't read my review...)

We know we're in trouble from the start, when the listless narration by Jessica Alba ("People say seeing is believing, but for me, that's not entirely true"...yawn!) gives way to a listless performance. She plays Sydney Wells, a violinist who has been blind since age 5, the result of a firecracker mishap with sister Helen (Parker Posey). But a successful cornea transplant gives her new hope--until she starts to see spooky images of people and events that she doesn't recognize, along with fiery nightmares that may hold some message. She decides to uncover the mystery of her donor, bringing Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola) with her to Mexico to set up the film's climax, an accident that may seem familiar to fans of the original (and Final Destination 2).

It's such a waste, because directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud--who also co-directed the far superior French film Ils, a.k.a Them--resort to such hackneyed tactics as frantic edits, fake scares and overwrought musical cues. You'd often have no idea that some scenes were supposed to be scary if it weren't for the supersonic sound of frantic string instruments. It reaches laughable levels at the 55-minute mark, when a character's departure prompts orchestral overkill--a scene that would have been much more effective with silence. That's the biggest problem with the film; the material could work with more subtle treatment.

The intended spooks fall flat, way flat. Try as hard as I might, I just don't feel any fear when a little kid draped in bubble wrap repeatedly asks, "Have you seen my report card?" (maybe he got straight 'F's? Shriek!) You also hear that overused, animalistic "phantom click" noise when some of the specters open their mouths to growl. You see everything coming, and I was disappointed with the film's take on the visions--I was expecting far more unique visuals.

Alba wasn't the best fit for the lead; she's always likable, but can't quite tap into the more complex layers of the character's struggle (trying to adjust to seeing again is challenging enough on its own), something that would have strengthened the material. I'm one of the few people who loved the Dark Water remake, and thought Jennifer Connelly was so convincing. She made me believe it, and Alba doesn't. Posey--who I love to death--does enough with what's given to her, which isn't much (she might have been a better choice for the lead). I thought her character would play a more important role in the end, but she ends up being an afterthought. Nivola is equally adequate yet unimportant here.

The film looks nice and has some memorable shots, and there was certainly enough talent to make this a strong effort. But this remake succumbs to the worst sin imaginable in a horror movie: It's just boring.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, The Eye opts for an intentionally sterile, dark, drab palate for much of the film. Many scenes have a cold, green hue, intentionally broken at times by color (a girl's hat, an orange). A brown scheme is also used, and many of the shots are soft. It's effective with the material, although I found the black levels in some of the darker scenes to be slightly off at times. Nonetheless, a good showing.

Audio:
I can't fault the transfer for the annoyingly loud music, which is clearly intentional yet still out of balance for my taste. The 5.1 track makes good use of a lot of the effects, although I felt it could have been a bit bolder in some spots--the ones that weren't intended to scare you. You can also choose a Spanish 2.0 track, and there are optional English and Spanish subtitles, and a TheatreVision English Descriptive Audio Service track.

Extras:
The best bonus is a four-part behind-the-scenes feature. Up first is "Birth of the Shadowman" (1:25), a brief look at how the film's main ghost was created (with some funny dancing by the man himself, Brett A. Haworth, in the credits). Then you get "Becoming Sydney" (4:29), which covers Alba's tutorials with the violin and in being blind, integrated with clips from the film (drink Lipton!). "Shadow World: Seeing the Dead" (8:13) is an interesting look at the paranormal themes of the story, including discussion of organ transplant patients picking up characteristics and memories of their donors. This only scratches the surface on what could be a far more interesting exploration. (It includes a talk with Dawson Church, who wrote a book called The Genie in Your Genes, a title that makes me giggle.) The final segment is "The Eye: An Explosive Finale" (5:49), which looks at the creation of the film's--you guessed it!--explosive finale. Stunt coordinator Peter King interestingly notes they first practiced the sequence using toy cars, and it's cool to see its evolution.

You also get eight deleted scenes (totaling 12 minutes), presented in non-anamorphic, time-stamped widescreen. None of them are very interesting. One is mildly gory (compared to everything else you see in the film), while another has one of those overused floor-crawling ghosts. Rounding it out is the theatrical trailer and trailers for other Lionsgate releases. This two-disc version has a digital copy of the film on the second disc.

Final Thoughts:
In the hands of very talented directors, this remake sadly becomes a listless effort. It's not scary or original, resorting to overused devices to try and fake the fear. It's guilty of the biggest sin a thriller can make: It's just plain boring. It's a mild rental recommendation for horror lightweights who haven't seen many of the films it mimics. But if you've seen those, you'd probably do best to Skip it.

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