Mun (Angelica Lee), a young woman who has been blind for most of her life, undergoes a cornea transplant aimed at helping her to recover her sight. After the operation, she continues to find the visual world fuzzy and disorientating - as her helpful young doctor Wah (Lawrence Chou) explains, her brain has not yet learned to process the information received by her eyes. More disturbingly, she begins to see visions of ghostly, sometimes threatening figures invisible to others.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Those who follow these things more closely than I do report that a leading trend in recent Hong Kong horror cinema has been the shameless imitation of M. Night Shyalaman's ghost story for introverts, The Sixth Sense. As a case in point, the Pang brothers' The Eye trumps Shyalaman by linking the ability to "see dead people" to the equally surefire gimmick of a sight-impaired heroine whose perspective is relayed to us via shallow-focus point-of-view shots.
Who can say what might be lurking in the shadows? To keep us on the edge of our seats, all the Pangs have to do is invent a few eerie recurring images which emerge at unexpected moments: the scariest is a little boy in a cap, who speaks in a choked monotone and keeps his head cast down so we never see his face. Still more unsettling is the suggestion that Mun's failure to master her visual universe threatens her own identity - as when she struggles to recognise her own image in a mirror.
However, where Shyalaman's heroes tend to be obsessive loners living in their heads, The Eye is more outward-looking, concerned with the individual's relationship with society and with ancestors. For both Mun and Wah, family ties are important though sometimes strained ("You must have been reincarnated in the wrong body", muses Wah's uncle). But though the actors are personable, the characters aren't distinctive enough to bring these themes to life, making the later plot twists feel arbitrary or redundant.
Besides being an effective (if ultimately prosaic) chiller, The Eye also serves as a preview of its own surely inevitable Hollywood remake. My guess is that the Pangs will be allowed to direct this themselves - technically speaking, it would be hard to improve on the slick cinematography and editing. More cheesy though still effective is the electronic soundscape, whereby every apparition is accompanied by the distorted semblance of whistling wind or creaking metal. Why didn't the Pangs go the extra mile and make their heroine deaf as well?
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EYE, THE (MA)
CAST: Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon, Yut Lai So, Candy Lo, Yin Ping Ko, Pierre Png, Edmund Chen
PRODUCER: Peter Chan, Lawrence Cheng
DIRECTOR: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang
SCRIPT: Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui, Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Decha Srimantra
EDITOR: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang
MUSIC: Orange Music
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Art Direction: Simon So
RUNNING TIME: 94 minuttes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman/Eastern Eye
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: October 7, 2004
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.