Jessica Alba sees dead people in “The Eye,” a Hollywood version of the Pang brothers’ 2002 Hong Kong spookfest that’s already spawned three sequels and an Indian remake (“Naina”). Handed over to another directorial duo — Frenchmen David Moreau and Xavier Palud of home-invasion thriller “Them” — this slick effort is effectively creepsome until it bogs down somewhat in plot explication. Super Bowl weekend has proved a winning launchpad for mainstream horror before, and this watchable if unmemorable item banked $13 million in its bow facing tween sensation “Hannah Montana.”
Blinded in an accident at age 5, Sydney Wells (Alba) is a concert violinist nervously awaiting an operation to replace her corneas. Afterward (mercifully, this is one horror movie that doesn’t feel compelled to show surgery), she almost immediately begins seeing strange things, which her sister (Parker Posey), conductor (Rade Serbedzija) and specialist (Alessandro Nivola) assume at first is simply a result of disorientation in adjusting to her new, sensory-overload world.
But the visions become more vivid and disturbing — she gets premonitions of deaths, then sees the victims being led away by ghouls (which doesn’t make the afterlife look too inviting). She experiences hallucinatory nightmares involving people trapped in a fire. Eventually, the late, anonymous eye donor (Fernanda Romero) begins appearing in her mirror, finally prompting Sydney and her reluctant doc to road-trip down to Mexico and find out what she’s trying to communicate from the beyond.
Hewing fairly close to the original in tone and incident (complete with a refusal to insert the one-last-gotcha! that’s usually de rigueur in American horror pics), co-helmers Moreau and Palud do a good job creating a queasy atmosphere in which the real and spiritual worlds are unpleasantly hard to separate.
Pic is basically one eerie setpiece after another until the later reels, when Sebastian Gutierrez’s script feels compelled to start explaining things away. As usual with such hocus-pocus, the more it’s belabored in literal-minded dialogue (plus unnecessary voiceover at the beginning and end), the less plausible and scary things become.
Alba is adequate, supporting thesps good, though only Nivola gets much screentime. Aside from a bit of rough CGI during a climactic explosion, package is well turned on all levels, with a cold, inhospitable look to the production design and widescreen lensing.