The latest remake of a Japanese horror film hits screens this weekend and succeeds in scaring its viewers. But this film isn’t out for chills alone. Instead, “The Eye” is an artistically pleasing visual story underlying the horrorfest.
Successful violinist Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba, “Fantastic Four,” “Sin City”) has been blind since she was five years old. As an adult, she decides to undergo a corneal transplant in hopes of seeing again. The operation is a success; she only realizes just how much when she begins to see things that aren’t there, things she doesn’t understand. She’s received the second sight.
From the beginning of the film, viewers are presented with a visual mystery that the main character must solve. Images are thrown at the viewer in such rapid succession that it’s hard to tell who is in them and what is going on. Instead, the film moves on to the main premise and the beginning gradually begins to make sense.
The same approach is used for what Sydney is seeing; she only later realizes she can see ghosts and dead people. The movie goes to great lengths to develop Sydney’s character as fully as possible, patiently establishing the fact that this surgery is not an instant cure. She takes a while to adjust to her new sight, mentally as well as physically, and a good portion of the film is blurred to show what it must be like to look through her new eyes. This adds to the anxiety of some scenes when it’s hard to tell what exactly she’s looking at.
There is no psychopath waiting in the shadows to methodically kill off every character in the film. There are no buckets of blood redecorating the set. There are shadow creatures that fade in and out of the screen in a nebulous computer-generated imagery, as well as ghosts that crop up from time to time with their eerily edited movements. There’s even a scene that cleverly transitions between three different sets at once when Sydney keeps waking up from nightmares. This will end up becoming a significant part of the mystery she must solve.
In fact, this is the genius of the film. While it does use typical startle tactics that make viewers jump in their seats, it makes a point of not showing excessive gore or violence. With great special effects and cinematography, “The Eye” is a film that knows how to genuinely scare its viewers by using their own imaginations against them.
Better yet, the film itself is ultimately quite appealing to watch, as each scene is staged both to give an artistic impression and to further the plot. For starters, the common motif of water is woven throughout the tale. The film takes time to create aesthetically pleasing visuals that are a cut above what’s seen in typical horror films.
Perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that here, for the first time in a long time considering her recent spate of films, Alba gives a decent performance. She is believable as Sydney struggling to adapt to her new sight and the world around her. She is also able to capture her character’s terror and persistence in not thinking she has some sort of mental disorder. While it might not be an award-winning feat, it certainly shows that she does have more talent than most people give her credit for.
While “The Eye” might not be another “Sixth Sense” or “The Others,” it is similar in what it attempts to do with the common ghost story. The plot serves a purpose other than just scariness, and Sydney is a character who is brave enough not only to survive, but also to face her challenges head on.