The Eye (2002)

Directed by: The Pang Brothers
Written by: The Pang Brothers & Jojo Hui
Producers: Lawrence Cheng & Peter Chan
Starring: Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Candy Lo, So Yut Lai & Chutcha Rujinanon

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Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2003:
Best Actress (Angelica Lee)

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2003:
Best Editing (The Pang Brothers)
Best Sound Effects (Sansab Team)
Best Visual Effects

Award at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award 2002:
Film Of Merit

Awards at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2002:
Best Actress (Angelica Lee)
Best Visual Effects

Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2002:
Best Sound Effects (Sansab Team)

Hong Kong cinema have churned out it's share of horror flicks but most of the time filmmakers have focused more on the comedy side of it or based entire movies firmly in Chinese religion. Therefore not all movies have faired well overseas. Enter filmmakers Oxide and Danny Pang who got a nice reception overseas with their thriller Bangkok Dangerous made in 1999. To The Eye they brought both Thai and Hong Kong people to work behind and in front of the camera, resulting in a terrific horror film that WILL travel well.

Mun (Angelica Lee from Princess D) has been blind since the age of 2. Now in her twenties she gets the opportunity to have a cornea transplant to regain her sight. The operation is successful but soon Mun experiences horrific visions. She sees dead men, women and children appearing hostile or very strange and as time goes by each vision gets more horrific and more intense. She turns to her psycho therapist, Wah (Lawrence Chou from Heroes In Love) for help and guidance. She soon realizes the truth about what she's experiencing...

There's a reason why this movie is talked about right now. It's not that it has an original concept but more to do with the fact that The Pang Brothers have done one crucial thing; scare the living crap out of the audience. However this movie would not have been made if not a little sleeper hit called The Sixth Sense hadn't come along. Personally I don't mind movies borrowing concepts and ideas from others, as long you're trying to do something with it or make it your own. Remaking films however, I'm strongly against and I've heard that an American remake of The Eye is in the works, which is again a sign that American filmmakers can't come up with anything themselves. By all means, borrow from the east and make your own film but not someone elses.

I think our director's Oxide and Danny Pang have done a tremendous job here. Their way of shooting and directing is very stylized, something that can break a film, but in this movie their style works. The sometimes odd way of placing the camera works very well in the present parts of the film but is most effective in the more frantic flashback parts of the film and of course the horror scenes involving Mun. When the first visions appear the directors slowly let us walk with it and without warning the scene explodes in something that may not be terror at first glance but is scary because we do not actually know what it is. I've seen lots of Hollywood movies where they use the 5.1 sound to generate, what they think, is horror. The Eye has that trait except with the sound experience we also get the visuals that go along with it and it's genuinely frightening. I felt totally immersed into Mun's nightmarish world and the best scene all around by the Pang Brothers and with Mun is the elevator one. It's almost the most quiet of all scenes at first but it builds and builds to a point where you will be on the edge of your seat. In that confined space a moment of pure horror plays out and you're there yourself. Again the choice of angles, editing (which the Pang Brothers also are responsible for) and sound are in total symbiosis here The script is also penned by the brothers along with Jojo Hui and at all times the plot is easy to follow without the writers resorting to simplifying what's going on. The mystery is partially revealed throughout and while some viewers may be able to predict the outcome, it was still suspense filled and fairly hard to figure out. Have to say though that the final events set in Thailand feels a little rushed. It's not that we don't get what purpose it has in the story but there was a little weakness present in the wrapping up of things.

I mention cinematography in many reviews when it's needed and the work of DP Decha Srimantra certainly needs to be addressed. He was also the cinematographer on Bangkok Dangerous and even if I haven't seen his work in that film, I can safely say that his is a very good DP. The Eye has a few prominent looks to it, starting with the more subdued colourscheme around our main character Mun. It fits well since she sees the world for the first time and because of that it doesn't have to over-colurised. The look of course fits with the horror that plays out around her as well. The film shifts to location shooting in Thailand during the second half and, despite it being brighter, it is well integrated with the rest of the film. In some of the flashbacks there is use of black and white so overall Decha certainly faced many challenges. His past project with the Pang Brothers probably was good preparation going into this movie also.

There is quite a number of scenes with CGI, courtesy of award winning Centro Digital Pictures (HKFA:Best Visual Effects for Shaolin Soccer). I am not a big fan of CGI but I like it better when it's properly used in a way that enhances the story and it's scenes (Dark City is a good example). Centro keeps the effects simple and subtle but that really contributes to the scare factor present in The Eye. Their best achievement in the movie must be in the bedroom scene where Mun sees her room changing from one to another, like a ticking clock.Very effective. The final big scene of the movie has it's weaknesses when it comes to the effects though. Since it's so big, the CGI doesn't feel very real but on the other hand, it's a very powerful scene and we're too involved with the story to really think about the visual effects.

Acting wise we get a very good performance from leading lady Angelica Lee. She plays Mun that has to go through a very turbulent time in her life and she really embodies this part. Angelica is a very nice looking woman but the fact that she doesn't look very glamorous but instead more like an ordinary woman, enhances this character. That way her vulnerability and sensitive side is more believable. It's a role that isn't groundbreaking and it has been seen before but Angelica still makes this character her own.

Lawrence Chou is good but he feels and probably is a little young to play the character of Dr. Wah. He has that kind of teen idol look but does improve as the movie starts it's second half. The character becomes slightly more interesting and Lawrence does the character justice in the end.

The Eye is an excellent piece of cinema but it will be looked down upon in some circles as a mere copy of The Sixth Sense or even Stir Of Echoes. The Pang Brothers knows this but they have made their own film, not someone elses and that is what counts.

The DVD:

Panorama's disc starts out with a very blocky and pixelated image and I thought I had a very faulty disc. Thankfully, it's just a gag from the dvd producers done as a nod to those who sadly get their hands on bootleg releases. Fairly clever. When the movie does start we're treated to a good 1.85:1 print with pretty good detail and deep blacks. It's let down though by some noticeable print defects plus the lack of anamorphic enhancement.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a killer one! I talked about sound before and this is an amazing experience that fits very well with a movie like this. Also included is a 5.1 DTS track plus a Mandarin dub in 2.0.

The English subtitles are very good throughout and has only minimal spelling and grammatical errors. On a few occasions the subs repeat themselves which was odd. A single set of Chinese subtitles are also included, but nowhere does it say if they're traditional or simplified ones.

I wasn't expecting extras but would it hurt to include the trailer for the feature presentation at least?! Instead we get trailers for Avalon, Nowhere To Hide and Blow. Bah!

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson