The Eye (Jian gui)
February 22, 2002
In recent years, Asian horror films have enjoyed incredible popularity in the international market. Success stories like the notorious The Ring (1998) and Battle Royale (2000) have opened the floodgates for a whole new wave of movies for the world to discover. One of the more recent efforts, The Eye (2002), is a chilling effort that owes more the school of subtle scares than in-your-face blood and gore.
A young blind woman (Sin-Se) undergoes an operation that replaces her corneas so that she might see again. The operation is a success but she starts seeing spectral figures in the distance—fuzzy, out of focus images. With the help of a kind psychologist (Chou), she goes on a journey to understand her new ability and find out the identity of the donor of her new corneas.
At first, The Eye seems like an obvious copy of The Sixth Sense (1999) with a protagonist who can see dead people. However, The Eye is more of a pure horror film with a much creepier vibe than anything in The Sixth Sense. The ability to see dead people goes from being a curse to something of a miracle in the latter film, while the former reverses this arc so that the apparent miracle of restored sight becomes a curse as the young woman is tormented by her new ability. The Eye also explores the origins of the young woman’s ability in more detail. This mystery is what drives the story whereas in The Sixth Sense the ability to see dead people is merely a plot device to service the film’s gi mmicky plot twist at its climax.
What makes The Eye such an unsettling movie is the use of effective, suspenseful music by Orange Music. It provides a dark, atmospheric mood during the most horrific moments of the movie but in a subtle way that doesn’t overpower the scene. The score is a bit off-centre in the sense that it isn’t afraid to use whimsical music sparingly for brief moments of levity.
In a nice nod to its contemporaries, The Eye uses subliminal imagery for brief moments of horror that is reminiscent of Uzumaki (2000). Pay close attention to the train ride that the young woman and her psychologist take. However, it also references films from the American horror genre. The film’s protagonist manages to evade and ultimately cheat death much like the hero of Final Destination (2000). She also foresees a large-scale disaster that she tries to prevent right before it happens, which mirrors a similar sequence in The Mothman Prophecies (2002).
“Making of The Eye” features interviews with some of the cast and crew that speak eloquently about working on the movie. The Eye was based on a real incident where a woman who had her eyesight restored in an operation, committed suicide soon afterwards. Despite its short running time, this featurette is quite informative but should be watched after seeing the movie as it contains many spoilers.
There are also two trailers for the movie and for several other Palm Pictures movies.
The Eye is an excellent horror film because it maintains the proper balance between style and substance. What makes it work so well is that the characters are so well crafted that the audience develops an emotional investment and cares about what happens to them. Palm Pictures has provided a stunning transfer with an aggressive 5.1 surround soundtrack, which is vital to any decent horror film.