The Eye, House of Fools, and May

The Eye

Opens Fri., June 13 at Varsity In the annals of organ-transplant-gone-bad movies you have, after the 1931 Frankenstein, the pianist with a killer's mitts (1960's The Hands of Orlac), sundry heart-transplant flicks (Return to Me, Untamed Heart, Blood Work), and the requisite cerebellum-swapping comedies (The Man With Two Brains). Stacy Keach even has his hair disastrously transplanted in the 1993 TV movie Body Bags. From there, it's a short anatomical leap to eyes, and many will remember 1994's Blink, in which blind, fiddle-playing Madeleine Stowe gets new corneasonly to disbelieve them when she witnesses a murder. Yet another blind violinist, Mun (Lee Sin-Je), has her blinkers swapped in The Eye, which is fresh from SIFF and directed by the Pang brothers (who come from Thailand by way of Hong Kong). In the tradition of such transplant movies, twins Oxide and Danny Pang assemble their flick from other flicks, crudely grafting on whatever pieces or images suit their needs. They're members of the Tarantino generation for whom tapes and DVDs aren't sacrosanct source materials but grammatical building blocks, absorbed by osmosis, not theft. Mainly the Pangs seem to be aping the current Japanese boom in manga-influenced psycho-horror (see: the Ringu series, The Black House, Audition, et al.), although the results here come up short on either paranormal dread or outright gore. The dead aren't particularly scary in The Eye, and they can't even be bothered to chase anyone down the film's eerie, long corridors. (Is it wrong that we should still ask ghosts to go "Boo!"?) These spirits seem almost better adjusted than soulful, wraithlike Mun, who's also the only one capable of seeing the angelic "shadows"who escort the dearly departed to the great beyondin their long, black coats, like faceless, soft-focus iterations of Keanu in The Matrix Reloaded. (You just hope the afterlife isn't quite so dull as the City of Zion.) In The Eye's sentimental, vaguely Buddhist scheme, all that's required for a painless transition to the next world is a good deathwith reincarnation reassuringly close behind. So it's appropriate that The Eye has already been chosen for a remake by Tom Cruise (who, you'll recall, endured a cut-rate ocular job in Minority Report). This transplant movie will be transplanted into another transplant movie; even after the organs fail, nothing ever dies in Hollywood. In the remake, Cruise will presumably play the handsome young Dr. Lo Wah (Lawrence Chow), who starts out skeptical of Mun's I-see-dead-people apparitions, then, yes, begins to fall for the demure, troubled lass. (And please leave that one priceless line for Dr. Tom to deliver to a disapproving colleague: "Yes, I admit she's more than a patient to me"for that, even Vanilla Sky will be forgiven.) The Eye finally succumbs, like Frankenstein's monster, to its sheer stitched- together unviability. (When mad scientists cross fowl with fish, it's neither fish nor fowl.) That's why, as poor Mun suffers a maelstrom of premonitions and visions, there's the almost comic sense that she's seeing other films, not other realms. An onstage violin freak-out suggests Together. Her flashbacksto the life of the former cornea owner, Ling, in rural Thailand recall Jacob's Ladder, with lots of ominously swirling ceiling fans and squeaking, wobbling gurneys (and who let that damn crow into the hospital?). Prophecyit's a gift and a curse. Unless I'm thinking of another movie. (NR) BRIAN MILLER House Of Fools

Opens Fri., June 13 at Metro Russia's bid for the 2002 foreign-language Oscar was this fable about a madhouse in Chechnya separately bombed and invaded by both guerrillas and Russian troops. It's a real madhouse, and some of the actors are said to be actual inmates. The (sane) star is a radiant innocent named Janna (Julia Vysotsky), who makes madness look like great fun. She plays the accordion and fantasizes a love affair with Bryan Adams (!)who actually appears in her reverie about a wild party on a train, crooning "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" to her. Nice hallucination, if you can get it, and gorgeously photographed. Janna is based on a woman who actually stalked director Andrei Konchalovsky; the Chechens are more human than terrorists usually appear; and Konchalovsky strives to honor every character. But his tale is aimless, leaden with empathy, sticky like Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. I liked Janna OK, but I didn't really, really, really, really, really love her. (NR) TIM APPELO May

Opens Fri., June 13 at Meridian Loosely based on the Frankenstein story, May is the tale of a stick-thin freak (Angela Bettis) who can't find a friend. Although the equally stick-thin (and ridiculously hot) receptionist at the veterinary clinic where she works is always hitting on her, May can't seem to find a date, either. She does, however, have an apartment full of dolls, a compulsive sewing habit, and a knack for running into this one particular hottie (played by Jeremy Sisto, Alicia Silverstone's stalker from Clueless) at the local laundromat. When May works up the courage to talk to him, he tells her she's weird, but then adds, "I like weird." Problem is, everything gets really stupid from there. May is as hacked-up and hastily stitched together as Frankenstein's monster (much less May's own creations). Although it aims to be creepy, gory, dark, and disturbing, May is just plain dumb. (R) LAURA CASSIDY

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