Arriving in theaters early this year, 'The Eye' is the latest in a series of recent Asian horror film remakes that have failed to make much of an impression on US audiences. A more or less faithful update of the Pang Brothers' 2002 Hong Kong ghost-fest (one that's already spawned three sequels of its own), the US directorial reigns have been handed over to another team, Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud ('Them'), and the results may be derivative, but at least they're competent.
Jessica Alba stars as Sydney Wells, a young woman who was blinded in an accident at the age of 5. Now a successful concert violinist, Sydney undergoes an experimental surgery that restores her eyesight, leading to an almost immediate series of bizarre hallucinations. Her sister (Parker Posey), sympathetic conductor (Rade Serbedzija) and overseeing specialist (Alessandro Nivola) initially think her visions are a side-effect of the surgery and Sydney's slow adaptation to the overwhelming sensations of her new world.
Of course, this being a horror film, we soon learn that the ghosts Sydney is seeing are real -- and so are her increasingly-violent premonitions of death and murder. After she begins to experience a recurring vision of a fire, Sydney meets the ghost of the anonymous eye donor (Fernanda Romero) who gifted her with sight. Determined to finally confront the mystery behind her nightmare, Sydney heads down to Mexico with her doctor to commune with the dead that are stalking her.
The best aspect of 'The Eye' is the sense of mood and dread that Moreau and Palud are able to generate early on in the film. The ominous corridors of the hospital clash nicely with the more serene real world that Sydney previously inhabited (the prominent use of violins in the score also helps give 'The Eye' an off-kilter balance unusual for a modern American horror film). Sydney's visions also have some impact, even if, after so many 'Grudge' and 'Ring' clones, the sight of spooky-spooks hardly shocks much on their own much any more.
Unfortunately, 'The Eye' ultimately falls apart due to the overly-literal script by Sebastian Gutierrez. Over and over, plot machinations are explained away, leaving so much gobbledygook that after a while the film becomes more pedestrian than it is puzzling. Nothing is more lethal in a horror film than dispelling the mystery with exposition, but that's exactly the fate that befalls 'The Eye' (the unknown is always scarier than the known). At least 'The Eye' mangaes to avoid a number of genre cliches in its last reel, thankfully sparing us the annoying "one last gotcha scare!" overload of so many horror films these days, but overall it's a little too little, too late.
'Eye' also suffers from the casting of Alba in its lead role. Though it's unfair to criticize her for her stunning beauty, I've never felt that she's delivered a truly capable performance, and this is a film that rests squarely on her shoulders. To be fair, she is able to at times effectively convey vulnerability, but ultimately she seems unable to handle the more dramatic demands of the role. More capable are Posey and Nivola, though their roles (particularly Posey's) are too secondary to overcome the lack of a truly strong female lead.
Despite such faults, 'The Eye' isn't a total failure and remains worth a baseline rental for die-hard horror fans. I liked the atmosphere, I like moments of Alba's performance, and there are few creepy moments that do deliver chills. I wish 'The Eye' had resisted the urge to become so obvious at times, and I think the script ultimately lets down the more artful leanings of Moreau and Palud. But for at least some of its runtime, 'The Eye' is a decent enough remake.
'The Eye' sees all in this very nice-looking 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (2.35:1) presentation that conveys the desired spooky, dark atmosphere.
For a film so awash in shadow, I was impressed with the level of detail maintained by the transfer. Black crush is on the heavy side so fine textures are often lost, but contrast is bright enough that no important visuals are obscured nor was I ever confused at what I was looking at. Colors are also dark but rich, with greens and blues dominating the palette. The only downside here is that fleshtones are bit overdone, with facing often looking too orange and slightly plugged up. The source is excellent, however, with no artifacts, while depth and sharpness are excellent (there is no intrusive edge enhancement). In short, this is a strong, effective presentation.
Lionsgate offers DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 7.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit), along with French Dolby 2.0 Surround (192kbps) and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (448kbps) options (there is also an English Descriptive Video Service track for the hearing impaired). The DTS-HD MA mix is very good, delivering lots of aural chills and atmosphere.
Surround use is fairly subtle but well executed. The expected stinger effects are rendered in the back channels with force, and during more action-oriented moments, a nice sustained rear soundfield is created. There is also a good amount of score bleed and ambient effects. Dynamic range is quite healthy, with low bass that can deliver quite a jolt to the subwoofer when needed. The front channels also boast nice stereo separation and well-balanced dialogue. The entire mix sounds organic, and certainly adds to the film's effectiveness. Well done.
Lionsgate has ported over the complete supplemental package from the standard DVD of 'The Eye' to this Blu-ray edition. It's a very straight-forward selection, and a good deal less substantial than the bulletpoints at first suggest. (Extras are presented in a mix of 1080 and 480 video, with optional English and Spanish subtitles.)
'The Eye' is yet another Hollywood remake of an Asian horror film, and it's neither the best nor the worst of the lot. It's highly derivative but it's also occasionally effective, which may be enough for less discerning fans of the genre. On purely technical terms, this Blu-ray is a winner, boasting fine video and audio and a serviceable set of extras. Worth a rental for horror buffs.