At the halfway point of The Eye, I wondered why there had been mostly negative press regarding this film. I questioned the reasoning people had in disliking a film about a formerly blind woman having to get reacquainted with the world after a miraculous surgery allowed her to see again. I actually could not believe that some had called this the worst remake of an Asian horror film, as I was having a blast. Then, the halfway point hit.
It’s at this point, and the subsequent 45 minutes, when I realized the “why” behind their claims. I found out that what I was dealing with wasn’t a fun movie about what I described above, but instead a ghost story about a woman who sees things that may or may not be in her head. Nobody believes her, but she’s determined to solve the mystery behind these images regardless. We get a bunch of unnecessary exposition, as well as a great deal of uninteresting scenes that are meaningless in terms of the overall plot. When you explain how a magic trick is done, it becomes less fun right off the bat. When you tell us who’s behind the curtain in a horror movie, it ceases to be as frightening.
The woman in this film is named Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba), a violinist who is pretty good for someone who begins the film unable to see. A donor is found though, and since her sister (Parker Posey) has insisted, she gets the surgery and is able to see again. Everything is incredibly blurry to begin with, but that’s to be expected; after all, she’s been blind since she was five years old, when a firecracker accident that may or may not have been her sister’s fault stole her vision.
She’s told that her vision will improve over the next few days or weeks, and while images slowly become clear, she’s going to work with a specialist named Dr. Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola). She has to re-adjust to the world now that her brain is once again receiving signals from her eyes, and that can be jarring, we’re told. We watch her struggle for with day to day activities, while also getting POV shots of blurry things. We see what she sees — or doesn’t see, in this case — and seeing her try to get her life back on track could probably make for an interesting drama.
Then shadow-like things are thrown into the mix. She first sees something almost immediately after she opens her new eyes for the first time, but isn’t aware that it shouldn’t be there. We are though, and it’s creepy. Then, that night, she sees her hospital roommate taken away by one of them, only to find out that the woman had passed away in the night. After being released, she sees more of these things, but when she tells people, they pass it off as the brain being overloaded or her just seeing things.
Let’s summarize up to this point. There’s a woman who has only recently regained her sight. This is an entirely new experience for her, and she now has to get re-acclimated to the world now that her eyes work. She’s now seeing things that she perceives to be a threat — ghosts, shadows, or maybe something else. If this doesn’t sound like a good premise to you, I don’t really know what you want from a horror film.
What went wrong? Something, I know that. After this basic premise is given to us, and we’re ready for some solid scares, it gets largely forgotten about so that Sydney can go from location to location trying to find out why she’s seeing these things, as well as who the donor was. It becomes a mystery film that has things popping up and going “boo!” whenever the music cues tell them to.
The part at the beginning that was actually done the best was when Sydney had to get used to her new eyes. She had to learn how to walk without a cane, what depth perception was, how to read, and other such things. For whatever reason, I found this fascinating. Throw in a potential mental illness or supernatural disturbance, and you’ve got me captivated. But when the film turns into a “let’s go solve a mystery” affair, I lost interest. Like I said earlier, once you explain things, it’s no longer all that scary.
For what it’s worth, there are a couple of decent jump scares that startled me. The soundtrack told me exactly when they were coming, but I jumped regardless. I think that it’s because of just how sudden and loud they are, but at least they did accomplish their goal for some of the time. Some jump scares even fail to make you jump or flinch, which is when you know you’ve got a really poor horror film. If nothing else, The Eye got me good a few times.
I know that it’s largely irrelevant, but I feel the need to point it out anyway, because I think that it’s something that will surprise you. Performances in horror films are rarely anything great, and while that’s true here, there’s one thing that might shock you. Out of the three actors I listed earlier, Jessica Alba probably turned in the best performance. The other two, Nivola and Posey, were both incredibly wooden and showed no emotion throughout. You guys know that you can smile in a horror movie, right? At least Alba put in the effort, and when she was required to scream, she was effective.
In the end, The Eye is watchable, but nothing special. Its first half was very good, almost great, but everything went downhill from there, and in a hurry. I was promised a movie about a woman trying to figure out the world around her while dealing with visions that may or may not be real, but ended up getting one about a woman going around searching for an answer to a question I didn’t want resolved. It has moments of brilliance, but on the whole is uninteresting.