Review of THE EYE Remake
The Hollywood remake of the Pang brothers’ The Eye (Gin Gwai) is surprisingly not as bad as other remakes of Asian horror films. But that could easily be attributed to the fact that the Pangs already had a good script to begin with. And the two most important things for a film to work, as I’ve been told by a famous director, are a good script and good casting.
Anjelica Lee gave a stunning performance in the original that made us care enough to participate emotionally in her quest to discover the truth about her cornea transplants. Jessica Alba, while faring a few notches below Lee’s excellent turn, isn’t inept at all, but just lacks the inner turmoil that Lee was able to portray.
But what really irks me is how everything that worked for the original is magnified ten or more times for the remake, so that sounds are unnecessarily louder, cuts are unnecessarily faster and in-your-face, and a few elements are made more gory. The old man in the lift has extra cosmetic scariness, the boy ghost has a “reveal moment,” and – this one’s a bit silly – when Sydney (Alba)’s room changes right before her eyes, there’s accompanying “morphing” sounds.
Still, the remake is pretty much faithful to the original storyline, except for one thing. While the Pang brothers’ version observed a sense of the inevitability of mortality, which of course, has its roots in cultural beliefs in unavoidable fate, the remake goes for the usual heroic gusto of beating the odds, instead of plunging headlong into the unknown future like Lee’s character does, which made the original a somewhat fitting downbeat affair.
Sydney is, like in the original, a classical violinist who gets cornea transplants that, apart from giving her normal sight, also enables her to see ghosts. (There’s a friendly jab at The Sixth Sense, courtesy of Sydney’s doctor, Paul Faulkner played by Alessandro Nivola, which is a nice bit of humour.) But unlike the original, Sydney lives in a posh apartment, which is a little too slick to be terrifying, but does provide a nice juxtaposition to when the story moves to Mexico.
The earnestness of the remake to pay tribute to the source even includes both the Cantonese and Mandarin titles in the opening credits (something I don’t believe I’ve seen before) and some Asian references. One of the nice deviations from the original, but which also takes place in a Chinese restaurant, is genuinely surprising and unexpected. Unfortunately, surprises such as that are few for those who’ve seen the original, who might also find the additions and extra unnecessary jolts to be quite irksome. The hospital scene is unnecessarily drawn out and the now-famous calligraphy scene in the original is altered into something not quite coherent. Once some of the scares are removed from a cultural base (ie, ghosts crave food even in the afterlife), their effect is somewhat minimised.
But overall, to their credit, the filmmakers do manage to keep things more controlled than other Hollywood horror remakes. The result is a remake that’s not better nor worse than the original. Unfortunately, it’s also not as memorable, because, well, there simply is no point to remaking an already good horror film.