Well it wouldn’t be a horror week without an Asian horror film would it. Those kung fu kicking, Godzilla fearing chaps have been generally schooling the west in the art of horror for a good few years now and here’s one of my favorite. As with all good Asian horrors The Eye was remade for the west back in 2008. That film fell very flat. If you want to know how a real horror chill feels watch A Tale Of Two Sisters… oh, or The Eye.
The Eye is the second feature film from director brothers Danny and Oxide Pang. They’re awfully shakey as directors but when they hit a home run it goes right out the… ball park… yeah, ball park. That’s a correct baseball reference right? The Eye has nothing to do with baseball and as I’m not one to edit my reviews that pointless statement is staying. Anyway, The eye tells the story of a young lass by the name of Mun (Angelica Lee) who, 18 years after going blind at the age of two, has had a corneal transplant to allow her to see again. She hasn’t seen anything for so long that when she starts seeing suspicious characters around her she doesn’t think much of it at first, but when she starts to realise that they’re actually ghosts she starts to freak out more than a little.
Mun is very much the centre of the film with barely any of the secondary characters being anything more than window dressing or a guide for Mun’s journey. What the film lacks in fully fleshed out characters though it more than makes up in chills. I have seen this film at least 10 times now and my hairs still stand on end at some of the films scares. Very few films manage that past the first for me. There’s something about the audio design and the direction that makes a few of the scare sequences really effective, particularly a scene in a hospital corridor and another in a calligraphy class. There is one scene that has now become legendary, a scene in a lift, but I’ve always found it to merely be effectively tense. That’s not to say it wouldn’t send a chill or two up your spine though. Watch it in the embed here and tell me what you think.
What helps elevate this film above it’s 2008 remake is the central performance from Angelica Lee. Whilst not an astounding piece of acting she manages to convey fear and panic very well. A lot better than Jessica Alba did in her version. Although it didn’t help that the remake managed to make all the scares fall flat through a lack of skilled directing. It also helps that Angelica Lee’s Mun appears like a more frail and easily empathetic character Than Alba’s Sydney. Horror films that play on a more psychological set of scares rely largely on a strong central performance to sell the scares to the audience. If you don’t feel any sympathy for the main characters plight due to her coming across as a flat, boring cookie cutter then the scares will just not work.
The film could easily do with a more carefully considered plot. It certainly wastes no time getting to Mun receiving her new eyes. I think many of the secondary characters would have benefited from being involved in a few scenes leading up to the operation. For instance you’re given the impression that Mun’s Grandmother is quite doting. Maybe this could have been used as a source of conflict and a potential obstacle for Mun to overcome upon receiving her sight back. We don’t get to see how the idea of getting her sight back effects Mun. Because of this some of the potential emotional weight of such a life changing event and it’s supernatural price is lost. These are genuine script issues but they really don’t detract that much from the films effectiveness as a horror.
Direction by the Pangs is stylish and clearly show the occasional influence from Western directors, Sam Raimi’s trademark POV chase cam has a moment or two to help along the scares. Some of the non-horror scenes maybe lack weight but it’s not uncommon for Asian films to play down scenes of potential conflict, such is their generally reserved nature. The Pangs also love to throw the odd hidden creepy moment in there. If you’ve seen the film before tell me, did you spot something on the train? Not everyone does but once they see it they can never unsee it.
Overall The Eye is flawed in story and character but the sheer strength of the chills and the unique feel the direction and editing have really elevate to levels most horrors fail to reach. As I’ve said the Pang Brothers are a little shaky as directors, I certainly wouldn’t recommend bothering with the sequels, except maybe The Eye 2, but they certainly have ability and I’m kind of amazed they’ve never made a successful transition to the US. They somehow managed to screw up the remake of their own film Bangkok Dangerous. Despite that I think eventually they’ll put out another film that earns them a strong rep. I certainly recommend seeing The Eye most out of any of their films. It’s shake the shit out of ya.