The Eye

What is it about American horror movies that make them stink so much? Filmmakers here rely too much on gore, blood and special effects to make people jump rather than making something genuinely creepy. It seems the rest of the world has got it right, and every time they make a good film, Americans remake it. The Ring was originally Ringu from Japan, and the remake of the sequel is on the way. Stretching the genre towards psychological thrillers gives two Spanish films, Open Your Eyes remade unsuccessfully as Vanilla Sky, and Intacto which will also get the remake treatment. So what about a good film like The Others? Well, it was the brainchild of Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, who also gave audiences the aforementioned Open Your Eyes. Now comes The Eye, a genuinely creepy film that plays like superficially like The Sixth Sense (okay, M. Night Shyamalan is probably the only decent horror director here) in that the lead character sees things that others don't. It did boffo box office numbers in Asia, and is yet another film that Americans are planning to remake.

The Eye comes from the minds of the Pang Brothers, Danny (Bangkok Dangerous) and Oxide (Bangkok Haunted, One Take Only) of Thailand, although their filmmaking style owes a lot to Hong Kong. Their film Bangkok Dangerous had a limited release in the States, and it was a stale action movie cliche. Still, the only other Thai movie in recent memory to receive domestic distrubtion was The Iron Ladies, and the less said about that film the better. If The Eye is any indication, horror may be their strong point. They definitely have fun in scaring their audience, as the first minute of the film demonstrates. The Eye concerns strange visions that Mun (Lee Sin-Je, Princess D, Betelnut Beauty) is having. Mun, who was blind since the age of two, just finished an operation that restored her sight. She is undergoing a period of adjustment, where things appear blurry and bright lights hurt her. Dr. Wah (Lawrence Chou, Merry-Go-Round, Heroes in Love) is there to help her assimilate to life with sight. He remarks that sometimes, blind people who regain their sight have psychological problems adjusting to life.

It is this fact that makes Mun initially doubt what she thinks she is seeing. Things look out of focus to her, so in the hospital she thinks she sees a man leading a woman away. The next morning, she discovers the woman died. She sees a man standing in the middle of traffic. Voices and people appear from nowhere, then disappear. At home, she keeps running into a boy asking for his report card, and at night, horrific nightmares plague her. Mun begins to believe that something is really wrong with her, and Dr. Wah obviously doesn't believe her. As time goes on, the nightmares become worse and Mun sees more 'ghosts.' The Pangs directed and co-wrote the script with Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui (Three), and the best thing they did was to make Mun's sight bad. Because she cannot see clearly, everything around her is a blur. She cannot tell if what she thinks she is seeing is real or not. The Pang brothers do a good job and blurring images on screen to make it look like the viewer is seeing things through Mun's eyes. The viewer knows that whatever is out of focus is wrong (Mun initially doesn't), and not being able to see it clearly just makes it worse.

The Pang brothers then cast everything in near darkness. Since Mun is blind, this is not a problem for her. However, it improves the overall feeling of dread in the film. They then throw in some creepy music (along with some annoying selections) and plenty of loud, jolting noises. Lee (a pop star in Taiwan) gives a credible performance of a woman falling apart at the seams. Mun is timid with her newfound sight, yet curious and adventurous enough to explore. She dreamed of regaining her sight for years, but now that she has it, it is turning into one huge nightmare. She doesn't know what is happening, and doesn't know what to do. Her one instinct is to retreat into her room and recreate a sense of blindness. Best of all is that the Pang brothers are out to give the audience a good thrill. They know when it is good to show something on screen, and when it is good to not show it. It is all about the anticipation (check out one of the longest and excruciating elevator rides in memory), and by the end of the film, the audience is eating out the hands of the Pangs.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Thai with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains scary moments, probably a PG-13, maybe an R.

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