Mine Eyes Have Seen the Gory: "The Eye," "Over Her Dead Body," and "Strange Wilderness" Print
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 06 February 2008 02:06

Jessica Alba and Parker Posey in The EyeTHE EYE

You know the expression "It's the little things in life"? Well, it's the little things in B-grade American remakes of Asian horror flicks, too, which is why I can't dislike The Eye as much as I probably should.

Long, unnecessarily convoluted story short: Blind violinist Jessica Alba undergoes a corneal transplant, and begins having nightmarish visions of the recently deceased, the soon-to-be-deceased, and their monstrous escorts to the afterlife. Is Alba, in fact, experiencing cellular memory, with the precognitive abilities of her new orbs' previous owner? Can Alba solve the mystery before her premonitions of an impending, fiery catastrophe come to pass? Are we given any reason to care?

Not really, but if you can make it through The Eye's first five minutes - featuring Alba's far-too-chipper narration and a de facto commercial for Lipton Iced Tea - you should have a pretty easy time of it. Although directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud, reworking Danny and Oxide Pang's Chinese-language Gin Gwai, don't share the Pangs' talents for dread and off-kilter composition, they treat their silly material with an admirably grim earnestness that rarely slides into parody, and Sebastian Gutierrez's script, thankfully, is clever enough to acknowledge its many, many forbears. (There's a nice moment when a frazzled Alba, struggling to explain her visions, says, "I see... I see... ," and therapist Alessandro Nivola interrupts her with "Dead people?") Every now and again, a fanged, spectral beastie pops out of nowhere and provides a satisfying jolt; Parker Posey occasionally shows up to lend the movie warmth and humanism.

And then there's Jessica Alba. She's not a great actress - she's not even a very good actress - but here, at least, she's definitely not a lazy one; Alba plays blind, and then formerly-blind, like a performer who's really, really trying to do it correctly, and the more unstable her character becomes, the more touchingly determined Alba becomes. The Eye finds its generally vapid star giving her all to a harmless, forgettable goof that doesn't deserve her intensive concentration, yet it would certainly be a lesser movie without it; if it accomplishes nothing else, The Eye indicates that there's a little life left in Asian-horror updates, and - somewhat surprisingly - a lot left in Jessica Alba.

 

Eva Longoria Parker and Lake Bell in Over Her Dead BodyOVER HER DEAD BODY

Over Her Dead Body opens with a woman being crushed to death on her wedding day. A year later, in an attempt to contact his beloved, the dead woman's fiancé visits a female psychic. Goaded into it by the fiancé's sister, the psychic pretends to receive messages from the dead woman, and the psychic and the fiancé gradually fall in love. But the dead woman, having none of that, miraculously shows up at the psychic's apartment, and attempts to keep them apart through supernatural mischief. Complications ensue, and when, at the climax, the taxicab rushes the fiancé to the airport in an attempt to keep the psychic from boarding the plane with the wrong guy... .

No, wait! Come back! The movie's actually really good!

Nobody's asking the creators of cinematic romantic comedies to reinvent the wheel (although occasionally trying to wouldn't hurt), but in Over Her Dead Body, writer/director Jeff Lowell does the next best thing: Through happily loopy dialogue that continually takes you by surprise and some unexpectedly robust slapstick, he makes situations and characters you've seen dozens of time over feel newly, almost embarrassingly enjoyable. And while Eva Longoria Parker, as the pissed-off ghost, doesn't bring much to the party, Paul Rudd is sarcastic perfection, and the quick-witted, confident Lake Bell nails her first rom-com lead with spectacular gusto. The movie even features a hilarious farting scene. Talk about miracles.

 

Steve Zahn in Strange WildernessSTRANGE WILDERNESS

In recognition of the stoners who populate the movie, I'll admit that Strange Wilderness - released under Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions logo - does offer a nugget of a good comic idea: Steve Zahn, as the host of a TV nature show, making snarky, Mystery Science Theater-style comments to insert shots of wildlife footage. The rest of the movie is all stems and seeds. It's difficult to determine which of the film's "inspirations" is the most sleazily unamusing - though there's a strong argument for the plus-sized turkey that's caught deep-throating Zahn - but nearly every scene features such sniggering, juvenile contempt for both narrative considerations and the audience that being devoid of laughs is the least of its problems; you feel like spanking the movie and sending it to bed without dinner. Unless he showed up after the end credits began rolling (at which point I was out of there), Sandler himself doesn't appear in Strange Wilderness, but it barely matters, as director Fred Wolf has his performers imitate the comic at every given opportunity; Zahn resurrects Sandler's braying-psychopath routine, and Jonah Hill sings dirty acoustic-guitar solos in a nasal whine that makes you want to strangle him. Before this movie, I couldn't imagine any circumstances under which Hill couldn't be funny. I'm now wiser, but no happier.


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