In "The Eye," Jessica Alba plays a blind concert violinist who has her sight restored through corneal transplants.
And what does she see when the bandages come off? Dead people.
But it's when she looks in the mirror that she sees the real stiff here. Alba gives a flat, utterly unaffecting performance as a gifted woman who has another gift bestowed upon her when her sight returns.
The filmmakers, reworking a 2002 Hong Kong horror hit, try their hands at showing something magical in the way this person who has used ears as eyes has to reorient herself to the world.
She can't read stop signs or the expressions on people's faces. She doesn't know what a latté looks like, or the face of her sister (Parker Posey, who doesn't humiliate herself). Her long, disturbed trip back into the world of sight shows promise.
And then that thread has to be abandoned because this is a ghost story. Sydney (Alba) starts spotting spirits in the hospital, dying people being escorted into the afterlife by shrieking wraiths who don't want her to see them. They're jarring, every time we see them. Just not that scary.
Whose eyes are these? She wants to know. Her hunky, never-shaves therapist (Alessandro Nivola) won't tell her.
Sydney's dreams grow more real, more menacing. She sees a fire, all sorts of people dying horrific deaths. She feels a real threat to her life, her mental health. But she isn't finding the answers.
And through it all, Alba remains as placid as a mannequin, rarely ratcheting up any emotion at all as she takes us into Sydney's terror.
Poignant scenes involving a very young cancer patient for whom we are meant to fear, the mother of a boy who committed suicide (best moment in the movie) -- all are given short shrift as we hunt for that next faceless corpse in the elevator, the next clue about whose life and death Sydney's eyes are showing her.
There are unintentional laughs here and there. Sydney's best response to all this is smashing the lights of her apartment and covering her face in a blindfold. Everybody knows if you can't see them, they can't see you! No, it's not exactly "Wait Until Dark."
But as we crawl toward the odd, dimwitted and yet somehow inevitable "rational" wrap-up and conclusion, we can appreciate the better, if overly familiar movie that might have come into focus in "The Eye." And we appreciate that, as horror movies go, seeing isn't believing.