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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Eye, The  


The Eye

Reviewed by 1. Dave Chua  2. Soh Yun-Huei

Chinese Title: Jian gui
Directors: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang
Writing Credits: Jo Jo Hui Yuet-chun, Oxide Pang, Danny Pang
Cast: Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Candy Lo, Edmund Teo, Pierre Png
Genre: Horror
Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin
Country: Hong Kong, Singapore
Year released: 2002
Runtime: 98 min

1. Review by Dave Chua

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

Mun, blind since two, undergoes a cornea transplant and finds that she can now see ghosts. A kid who committed suicide lingers outside her door looking for his report card, another ghost demands to know why Mun has taken her seat during a calligraphy lesson, and a long-tongued ghost that licks at pieces of hanging chicken turns her appetite. The strangest apparition occurs in her room, which undergoes lightning-quick changes of interior decoration at night. The ghost and apparitions eventually drive her half-insane, and she seeks to unravel the reasons behind them. Unsurprisingly enough, the reason for her ability to see ghosts rest with the previous owner of her eyes. Mun and boyfriend, much-too-young looking psychologist Lawrence Chou, seek out to find out the answers in a village in Thailand.

The Eye is mostly effective in conveying shocks when it wants to. The scene in the calligraphy class can deliver some scares but most of the ghosts are not malicious. Even the most menacing spirit that appears in Mun's lift does not get the chance to do any harm. Also, the representatives of the Grim Reaper that arrive to take away the souls of the recently departed appear to be wearing long-sleeved turtlenecks, which is a definite downgrade in the scare factor compared with the familiar black robes and scythe model.

There are some missteps along the way. A scene where Mun practices with her violin interposed with scenes of a Taoist priest exorcizing her room that fails to make much sense, and the love affair between Mun and the psychologist is quite forced. Lawrence Chou looks far too young, even with his glasses on. The plot stalls and does not get back into gear until the last third of the movie, when Mun goes to Thailand to solve the mystery of her second sight.

Thankfully, the scenes in Thailand seem the most assured. The Pang brothers do a good job of conveying the drab atmosphere, complete with Bangkok traffic jam. Hats off to Centro Digital Pictures, which provided the special effects to Storm Riders and many other films, for making the special effects up to par and the Pang Brothers, for not trying to do too much. Some scenes have more style than substance, and the brothers have relied on out-of-focus shots, conveying Mun''s confused sight, as well as good sound work to give the shocks. Part of the soundtrack seems out of sorts with the scenes, but this is only jarringly apparent in the early parts of the movie.

The Eye is certainly one of the stronger horror films to emerge from Hong Kong in a while. The plot won't win it any awards, but it is sufficient to carry the movie along. Malaysian singer Angelica Lee does very well for her first role, while most of the other actors have to play second fiddle to the ghosts. The Eye lacks the air of menace that pervaded such Asian horror classics as The Ring, but it is a commendable effort that might have been stronger if it had not lapsed into heavy philosophizing or stylistic excesses.


2. Review by Soh Yun-Huei

Rating: *½ (out of four stars)

The Eye is not a horror film. The trailers, advertisements, and other promotional material may lead you to think otherwise, but really, the scare ratio is too low for The Eye to be truly considered a horror film. Instead, The Eye is actually a drama with a few scary moments, and the rest of the film deal with the trauma of developing "second sight." The storyline seems ripe for providing scares, but The Eye is rather disappointing in that aspect when it tries to be scary, it''s actually quite well done, but the rest of the film is so bland that these redeeming moments still fail to redeem the show. Although the lead actress, Angelica Lee acquits herself well enough, the supporting cast is rife with wrongly cast actors, further detracting from the cinematic experience. Kar Mun (Angelica Lee) has been blind since she was a young girl, and for the past twenty years or so, has been living in a world of darkness. However, the powers that be have granted her a second chance to see, and she undergoes a corneal transplant to let her regain her sight. Unfortunately, with her new "eyes" come some unfriendly visions she begins to see apparitions around her, and is horrified by these seemingly malevolent spirits. However, she soon realizes that these spirits seem to have something left unsaid or undone (reminds anyone of the plot of a recent English movie?), and that her cornea donor seems especially intent on telling her something. However, she is still troubled by the ghosts, and begins to shut herself away from the world.

Her psychologist, Dr. Lo (Lawrence Chou) is concerned for Kar Mun's well being, and decides to help Kar Mun uncover the reason behind her second sight. Together, they embark on a trip to Thailand in an attempt to find the donor of the corneas and her back story, but Kar Mun finds that she may have signed up for more than she had bargained for.

A collaboration between Applause Pictures and Singapore's own Raintree Pictures, The Eye is directed by Danny and Oxide Pang (Bangkok Dangerous, Bangkok Haunted), who are acclaimed Thai directors. During the scary sequences, the directors do well in creating an eerie atmosphere, although they do make the mistake of over-foreshadowing the scares, leading to easily predictable "boo" moments, which makes the scares lose some of their potential effect. That said, these scary scenes will probably still give a jolt to most moviegoers, and are the high points (especially the much-touted elevator sequence) of The Eye. However, for a film that stretches almost two hours, there are barely enough such scenes to be counted on one hand. The remainder of the film is split amongst melodramatic sequences, pointless filler (for example, the scene where Kar Mun seems to be possessed by Vanessa Mae, with no explanation whatsoever), and pointless melodramatic filler. The entire film ends in a scenario which is rather unconvincing, to say the least, and again resembles another, more recent, Hollywood movie (revealing the title would give away the ending of The Eye, so I won't do it here).

Angelica Lee puts forth a convincing performance as the blind Kar Mun, and her constant wide-eyed look of shock actually does the job admirably well. However, the same cannot be said of Lawrence Chou, who is so unfortunately miscast, and looks more like a lost teenager than a psychologist. Local celebrities Edmund Chen and Pierre Png also land roles in The Eye, but unfortunately both do not perform well in their roles either Edmund Chen feels too young to be playing the uncle of Lawrence Chou, whilst Pierre Png looks completely out of his element as a Thai doctor, and speaks horribly stilted Mandarin that is actually physically painful to listen to. The denouement also feels like a cop out, seemingly designed to accord the easiest way out to the characters in the film, and requires a rather large leap of faith to accept. In short, The Eye is much like most Asian films out there although there are positive aspects to the film, it's overlong, melodramatic, and never really breaks out of the mold. This is not Asia's answer to The Sixth Sense, and whilst entertaining at some stretches, will not be a film that stays in the public consciousness for long.

Final Word: There are redeeming points about The Eye, but it never succeeds in rising above mediocrity.