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Asian horror cinema seems all the rage at the moment. Besides the Ring (recently remade by Hollywood) and it's sequel and prequel, there has been a veritable wave of lesser known Asian horror flooding the market.
The rights to this film have already been bought out by Tom Cruise's production company (ugh!) so if this got the Hollywood treatment sometime soon I wouldn't bat an eyelid (sorry).
Just please, no Mister Cruise.
The Eye (Jian Gui) is the vision of Hong Kong film directors The Pang Brothers (Danny and Oxide) makers of stylish gangster pic Bangkok Dangerous. A film that showcased the considerable visual and auditory talents of the Brothers Pang. They are still relative newcomers on the scene though, and have perhaps stalled somewhat since BK's release three years ago.
'The Eye' was directed, edited and written by them both while Oxide was also responsible for the excellent sound throughout.
Brother teams in film also follows the recent trend spearheaded by the Wachowski's, Coen's and Hughes'. So with the double dipper of Asian horror, and brothers at the helm, you could bet the farm on it being good. Right?
The film begins with the opening shot of a young blind woman walking the city streets debating the beauty of the world despite it's ugliness. Cut to the opening titles and the first evidence of the Pang brothers visual style.
What seems essentially a cheap as hell idea - unseen hands making imprints from the other side of a white rubber sheet - is suprisingly effective. The impression is one of a ghostly presence trying to break through into our world.
Angelica Lee is the main character, Mun, a woman blind since the age of two, undergoing an operation to restore her lost sight. The operation at first appears to be a complete success but the gift of Mun's eyesight gradually turns out to be somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Though her vision is blurred she notices dark shapes moving about that others seem oblivious too. Inside of 15 minutes you get a great example of what 'The Eye' has in store for you. And you also realise which recent Hollywood Blockbuster that it bears a striking resemblance too, 'The Sixth Sense'.
It would be difficult to think of a harder act to follow from recent years but perhaps thankfully 'The Eye' doesn't take quite the same route. Whereas T6S invested a lot of energy in fleshing out the two main characters Eye puts it's effort more into the supernatural.
Mun's character is barely explored, which wouldn't be such a bad thing if the time, sans-ghosts, was taken up by something else, like for example an involving story. Sadly the storyline can be sieved down to about three events.
Lee herself though displays an effective performance, particularly when confronted by the spirits, but can only lend so much emotional weight to the character given the script.
It is because of this lack of drama that you are reduced to waiting for the next appearance of the undead. Thankfully when the undead spirits do appear the Pang brothers show their true flair on the screen:
From the look - At first the spirits are seen in the blur of Mung's weak eyesight, and later as partly insubstantial.
To the sound - Unearthly, disembodied voices, moans and shrieks backed by violent, thudding, heartbeat-like percussion and piercing strings.
The film does a fantastic job of making the appearance of the ghosts feel truly tense and creepy. *This* is where the film is at it's strongest, and much more effective than the Sixth Sense, for my money.
Particular mention must go to Oxide Pang's use of sound throughout. Ironically in a film about sight it is the use of sound that catches "the eye" and heightens the tension.
Each supernatural appearance is also markedly different from the proceeding ones, so it never becomes a case of here we go again. More a case of leaving you wondering what the next one will be like...
If I was to say one thing that was missing from The Eye (besides the sparse plotting and character development!) it would be that there is not enough drama milked from Mun's situation. What if, for instance, because she can see the undead spirits and they can see her, they can *hurt* her. In actuality, though Mun may be scared to death frequently, it soon becomes apparent she is in no physical danger. Shame...
And this is what stops The Eye from becoming a true balls-to-the-wall horror film, leaving it falling somewhere between that and the Sixth Sense.
While I was not fully satisfied with 'The Eye' it remains a worthwhile and memorable film, and should be commended for commiting to celluloid some of the creepiest ghosts this side of the afterlife. The Orient without doubt has a far richer tradition of ghosts than the West, and the Pang brothers wring every ounce of life out of it.
For those that like dark (Oriental) ghost stories 'The Eye' is a film that just has to be experienced...