Film Reviews:

The Eye

(The Pang Brothers, Taiwan, 2002)

Pretty young blind girl Mun (the sweetly vulnerable Lee Sin-Je) receives an operation to restore her sight. Its successful, but there is an unwelcome side effect: she can now see ghosts. And in busy Hong Kong, there's a lot of them: lurking in lifts, running around on the stairs, watching malevolently from every corner. Unable to take it, Mun retreats into depression, but is luckily aided by her attractive doctor (Lawrence Chou, much too young to be credible). Together, they begin a quest for the identity of the tragic cornea donor, whose demise provided Mun's sight, and whose face stares back at her whenever she looks into a mirror.

After one of the most striking opening credits sequences since Se7en, its disappointing to discover that The Eye's cinematography and lighting are so conventional. However, this is dislocated by some extremely sharp editing, top-rate special effects, and a highly effective, very weird sound design. These all bring a surreal feel to what are often quite ordinary visuals. The tension between these approaches, (which fight against each other, as often as they work together), actually make The Eye seem more original than it is.

Nevertheless, Mun's encounters with the supernatural are terrifying, easily as nerve-shredding as anything in The Sixth Sense or Ring, although The Eye does owe a large debt to both films. There are many other influences stirred in, too. Twin writer- directors the Pang Brothers make use of ideas and images from a host of films ranging from The Hands Of Orlac to Blink, Eyes of Laura Mars to The Dead Zone, Jacob's Ladder to Fight Club, and these borrowings almost become more ghosts in the film: past echoes in a new setting

Gripping for its first half, The Eye's story reaches a dead end midway with Mun's withdrawal into herself, and the shift of location from Hong Kong to Thailand sees the plot lose focus, as her ability confusingly changes to Cassandra-like precognition. These later scenes lack power, and although the climax is effective, it seems to have come from a different film. Well worth seeing, The Eye's flashy editing and direction occasionally seem like an overly hopeful Hollywood calling card. But on these results, it would be a crime if Hollywood wasn't begging the Pang Brothers over as soon as possible.

Adrian Horrocks

See also:

The Eyes of Laura Mars
Fight Club
In Dreams

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