The Eye (2002)

"Weak"

The Eye (2002) Review


Of all the horror films that spring to mind while watching the Pang brothers' stylish if only sporadically frightening The Eye, none is more amusing than Body Parts. That moronic vehicle for B-movie heartthrob Jeff Fahey concerned a man whose decapitated arm is replaced by the appendage of a serial killer on death row, and which eventually turns out to still be controlled by said killer, who wants his arm back! It was one of the 1990s' most inane "it's so awful that it's come back around to being good again" guilty pleasures, and features a truly inspired performance by Fahey's arm, which flails about wildly under the possessed guidance of its original owner. Even in some quarters today, unexpectedly smacking someone next to you can easily be explained by the simple phrase, "Sorry, it was my serial killer arm."

But I digress. Like Fahey's insipidly entertaining film, The Eye is about transplanted body parts that can't seem to shake the influence of their former hosts. Mun (Angelica Lee) has been blind since the age of two, but a recent cornea transplant has miraculously given her the gift of sight. The only problem is that, along with sight, Mun seems to have gained a "second sight" as well: She can see sinewy, indistinct figures (apparently death's bureaucratic minions) taking people away right before they die, and even sees a mysterious stranger's face when she looks in the mirror. This prescience is confounding and terrifying for Mun, and she seeks the counsel of a psychotherapist named Dr. Wah (Lawrence Chou) to help her escape this terrible curse. In typical ghost story fashion, what both learn is that these spirits are hanging around their former haunts because they have unfinished business in the real world, and that it's up to Mun to help them complete their last earthly tasks and send them safely on their way to happy dead-person land.

Visually, the Pang brothers' (Bangkok Dangerous) latest is both sleekly ominous and hopelessly derivative, with every ghoul a mere rehash of The Sixth Sense's wandering dead and everything else - the film's bland female heroine and useless male sidekick, washed-out steel grey color palette, jarring musical cues, and hopelessly familiar story involving a dead witch whose spirit continues to haunt the living - blatantly lifted from Ringu (remade for U.S. audiences last year as The Ring). But if the film's lack of originality is its most problematic aspect, The Eye's ultimate failure is simply a dearth of genuinely startling moments. Edited with razor-sharp precision, the film elicits most of its scares from delightfully sudden and discomforting changes in perspective, and a few of the ghosts - most notably one haunting the calligraphy school Mun attends - manage to provide a jolt. Yet it's disappointing to find the film's most deliciously terrifying surprise occurs during the film's opening credits.

One could make the case that Mun's plight reveals the futility (or at least imperfection) of sight, and the Pang Brothers do seem interested in rebuking the notion that physical (or extrasensory) sight somehow grants people greater knowledge of, or control over, the world around them. With a film like The Eye, however, the primary objective is to terrify the pants off of moviegoers as frequently as possible, and, despite a few bone-rattling shocks, those looking for a really good ocular-themed scare are still better off picking up a copy of Luis Buñuel's surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou.

Aka Jian gui.



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