The Eye (2008)
Few have managed to grasp horror in the intense, occasionally uncomfortable clarity of Asian filmmakers. From Korea to Japan, viewers find an unrivaled level of skin-crawling, prolonged shock value, and in this case China is no different. In 2002, the Pang brothers, two popular East Asian directors, compiled a collection of gut-wrenching images and sounds, creating their film The Eye. The Eye tells the story of an eye-transplant patient who sees the haunting that drove the former owner to an ultimate end of suicide. What follows is her attempt to free herself from the cycle of constant fear. While this movie brings to the table a story with visuals as haunting as the story it tells, what truly arrests audiences is the constant anxiety involved in its viewing. The question we encounter is whether or not the stateside remake, released in 2008, continues the trend of swelling uneasiness that the first captures so well.
The answer to that is, put quite simply, yes. This success is based largely on two factors: an Americanization of sorts to be discussed later, and that lurking unrest mentioned above. This film pushes viewers, especially those familiar with the original, into corners where expectations are shattered. Despite this, a sense of foreboding pervades the entire movie, and the images of ghosts often remain on screen for longer than is comfortable for watchers, offering a physical stirring to accompany the fright the mind experiences. Oftentimes the specters torment the viewer as much as the protagonist, Sydney Wells, played by Jessica Alba.
The aforementioned Americanization refers to the film’s placement in an America-centric environment. In the Chinese version, the main character travels to the outskirts of China (presumably, though it is never directly mentioned), to a small town where the previous owner of the eyes lived and died. This locale changes to a small town in Mexico, a much more reachable environ from the US, and one in which graffiti declares “Bruja” and “Diablo” (Witch and Devil, respectively), giving the setting a more realistic feel than other movies that pit an American character in the Asian country the film originally takes place in. Another example is a scene in which a ghost attacks the protagonist for being in “her chair.” In the Chinese release, this chair was a desk at which the new owner is learning at last to write in Chinese calligraphy. This is obviously something unnecessary for most Americans, and was changed in the US release.
Overall, The Eye offers a suspenseful look at the horror inherent in the ability to see, and the safety hidden behind blindness. If it suffers from any issues at all, It arises from the amount of “stuff” in the movie. It throws scare after scare at the viewer, and perhaps either an extended story or a diminished number of shocks would have done the film well. This complaint aside, it enters as one of the better horror movies of the year, if not the best, and holds down the title with a strong 8/10 from me.