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Review

New Alba flick ‘The Eye’ a bad remake of fIrightening original

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February 7, 2008

The original version of “The Eye” stood at the forefront of the Asian horror boom. It arrived just in time, right before leagues of imitators stormed the gates and made it difficult to distinguish a ripoff from a truly frightening slice of cinema.

But what the new American version does to its predecessor is like slapping a Budweiser hat on the Statue of Liberty; sure, the flick’s essentially the same, but everything new it brings to the table only serves to hasten its descent into sheer goofiness.

Having been blind since a child, Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) is about to undergo a surgical procedure that will at long last restore her sight. Everything goes off without a hitch, but it’s when she starts adjusting to seeing things that something strange starts happening to Sydney.

As she takes in the world around her, there are a number of odd occurrences she can’t seem to explain, from seeing phantom-like figures lurking about to encountering people who disappear on a moment’s notice. Those around her, including a cynical doctor (Alessandro Nivola), think she’s just going through a difficult transitional phase, but with her visions becoming more vivid and violent, Sydney becomes determined to get to the bottom of them, the ensuing investigation uncovering a most bizarre truth about her cornea donor.

It’s not that the story is a bust, since I dug not only the original version of “The Eye” but also its two sequels. At least this movie remains active, whereas “One Missed Call,” another recent Asian horror remake, was dead in the water from the word “go.”

But in translating the picture for audiences on this side of the pond, “The Eye” directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud have stricken their baby with a serious case of overkill. The ghosts announce their arrivals with enough ear-piercing sound cues and erratic editing to give you the impression that the flick’s post-production was handled by a team of people all having seizures at the same time.

Usually, when an actor plays someone with a physical handicap, it means they’re fishing for an Oscar. Alas, no little gold men are in Jessica Alba’s future, as her blind girl act here lasts a grand total of two minutes. For the rest of the time, she runs around like a garden-variety scream queen with beer goggles, stumbling to and fro from blurry specter to blurry specter.

The film would’ve been even more suspenseful if she had remained blind, for at least then it would have avoided such awkward situations, as when the script goes out of its way to mention that Sydney isn’t yet visually acquainted with the world, yet she knows without a doubt what smoke and shadows are right off the bat.

Those not turned off by subtitles will find the original version of “The Eye” to be a freaky little treat, but those hoping for entertainment out of the remake would be better off setting their sights on something else at the multiplex.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.