Feb 2, 2008

On The Eye

Too busy turning Nicholas Cage into a blind hitman for a Hollywood remake of their first feature Bangkok Dangerous, Danny and Oxide Pang weren’t around to oversee this paltry English language remounting of their 2002 breakthrough, The Eye. A pity for sure as the resulting film is another in a long line of poor studio remakes of Asian horror films. Xavier Palud and David Moreau’s The Eye carries little of the visual pizzazz or narrative thrust of Danny and Oxide Pang’s original and imposes an ending that sheds the appealing ambiguity of the first film, for which I was not a partisan to begin with.

Sure, Palud and Moreau aren’t working with source material as strong as Jim Sonzero was with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse or Walter Salles was with Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water, but the Pang brothers film does offer the fascinating opportunity to create rhetorical analogies for recovery from blindness and to create some unsettling moments for the audience without relying on all the shock cutting, overbearing sound design and monster effects that this film and mainstream, post-millenial American horror films seem to use as their sole stock and trade.

Jessica Alba stars as Sydney, a woman in her mid twenties, blind since an accident involving firecrackers and her overzealous sister at age five. Other than her disability, Sydney leads a rather charmed life. She has a gorgeous apartment in a posh LA high rise, is a leading violin player in the Los Angeles symphony orchestra and probably needs penis repellent to keep every Tom and Richard out of her olfactory senses. Early in the film, her sight is restored during a Cornea transplant. She immediately glimpses her ingratiating sister for the first time, played with a thorough lack of conviction by Parker Posey, and begins to readjust to her new life with the help of Dr. Paul Faulkner (Alessandro Nivola who, as usual, is almost always better than the material he’s given).

Soon however, Syndey’s life is thrown for a loop, as she is haunted by ostensibly terrifying visions of death itself capturing the recently deceased and taking them away to some non Judeo-Christian afterlife, a Hell like oblivion, whatever lies on the other side. Of course, this movie isn’t interested in the larger implications of such visions, in offering any explanation ofr introducing it’s own larger mythology concerning death, spirituality, rebirth – it just wants to scare the bejesus out of teenagers, but even with those modest aims, one cannot help but conclude that the movie fails on just about every level after the spooks start roaming about.

Of course, everyone in Syndey’s life begins to think she’s crazy, perhaps schitzophrenic, certainly reacting to the shock of having her sight restored in an unhealthy way. Pushed to the brink of sanity, Sydney must discover whose eyes she has inherited, and what secret visions she is beholding, in her waking moments and her darkest dreams. This leads her to Mexico, and without interjecting any spoilers, know that what follows involves the critically underused Rachel Ticotin (where have you been since Total Recall?), imperiled children, dangerous Mexican factories, a small helping of poetic justice and one hell of an explosion. Everything is tidied up pretty good, Moreau and Palud having successfully auditioned for their next brainless Hollywood genre vehicle and the Dark Angel having successfully navigated us through another retread of an almost striking concept. The Sixth Sense this is not; for Asian Horror remake completists (are you out there?) only.