The Eye

Director    David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Starring    Jessica Alba, Alessandro Nivola, Parker Posey, Rade Serbedzija, Fernanda Romero
Release    1 FEB (US) 24 APR (UK)    Certificate 15
3 stars


2nd May 2008

"I see dead people." Nine years after The Sixth Sense and people are still trying to pull the same old shit. As far as modern horror clichés go, it's up there with "It was all a dream!" and "She's been dead for ten years!" Nonetheless, the old corpse-spotting hook has worked to varying effects over the years; some good (uh... give me a minute) and plenty bad (Gothika, White Noise 2, The Messengers, repeat to fade). This remake of the Pang brothers' 2002 horror treads well-worn ground - in fact, plot points seem to have been directly lifted from the little-seen 1994 Madeleine Stowe thriller Blink - but The Eye does it confidently enough to earn itself a pass. Remember, casting directors - it always helps to have Jessica Alba in your movie.

FHM's second sexiest woman in the world (what?) plays Sydney, a blind concert violinist who undergoes surgery to replace her duff eyes with those of a dead donor. When the bandages come off, Sydney's sight is far from 20/20, and she starts seeing ghostly blurs in her peripheral vision. Coupled with deathly visions and the stinkiest cheese nightmares imaginable (you gotta have a dream sequence), Sydney becomes convinced she's suffering an experience known as 'Cellular Memory'; a phenomenon in which new owners of transplanted organs inherit characteristics of the donor. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but in Sydney's case, they're a window to something much more terrifying.

Behind the camera are David Moreau and Xavier Palud, the Frenchmen who delivered one of the best thrillers in recent memory with home invasion horror Them. They're on familiar territory here - scares are delivered swiftly and sneakily - with the audience's vision often as blurred and obscured as the film's protagonist. It's a smart move; the numerous beasties on show are never seen fully, only in fleeting glimpses, meaning the CG needn't be scrutinised too closely - one faceless, floating apparition hovers eerily outside the field of vision. Occasionally the stirring score can feel a bit too much like it's leading you by the hand, and you'll often feel mugged by some of the cheaper scares - there are some real wham-bam, thank you-maam shocks - but for the most part, chills are delivered effectively and efficiently. Anyone who winces at ocular torture will be suitably grossed-out.

Alba, bless her, just doesn't have the range to truly own a role like this, but this is one of her better recent efforts (although that's something of a back-handed compliment). With weeping peepers and a bed-head hairdo only a blind woman could sport, she's clearly been ugged over by make-up but there's no disguising this is one of the most glamorous women on the planet. The requisite shower scene (through frosted glass - classy!) and a few gratuitous underwear shots are the price she pays for roles like this - Alba doesn't quite have the conviction to play haggard or haunted just yet. Tellingly, she trained to play the violin for six months prior to shooting, yet only a few brief scenes of her playing are shown - perhaps half as many as there are of her arse. Poor girl.

The Eye is a film that's content to stick to a familiar template - Westernised J-horror has proved a major cash cow after all - but carries itself with flair and never resorts to cheap shots. Importantly, The Eye knows not to outstay its welcome, and at just 98 minutes, makes for an easily digestible horror treat - anything longer and bags would have appeared under it. Sure, the supporting cast get less screen time than Alba's perk buttocks and there's some real clunkers in the script (cue profound leukaemia kid and her unfalteringly positive world view) but it's never less than watchable throughout. Turns out seeing dead people can still be kind of a thrill. At least it wasn't all a dream. Ali

More:  Horror  Thriller  Remake
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