The Eye (Jian gui)
November 25, 2003
Japanese cinema is fast becoming the benchmark for modern horror, what with The Ring movies and this little oddity from the directors of the ultra violent assassin thriller Bangkok Dangerous. The Eye, though perhaps not quite on the same level after close inspection, owes a lot to The Sixth Sense. It blatantly wants to scare you senseless and there are scenes that practically slap you in the face with film-making ingenuity.
Based on a true story, the film begins with blind violinist Mun going to hospital for an operation that will restore her sight. All goes well until, of course, her eyes start to show her things she can’t quite figure out. After all, if the first thing you ever saw were ghosts milling around with real people, how would you interpret them? The camera is with Mun as she first opens her eyes to vague blurs, giving us the same sense of confusion and then suspense as things start to go wrong.
When Mun’s eyes get stronger and she can see things clearer she realizes the people she keeps meeting in dark hallways at night are ghosts, and that a mysterious presence comes to take them at the point of death. Panicking, she runs to her doctor (the ridiculously youthful Lawrence Chou) and tries to persuade him to find out where her new eyes came from.
To reveal any more would spoil the experience, but again the influence of Sixth Sense and The Ring play a big part. Special FX are kept to a minimum and used to move the story along, and not vice versa. Indeed, most of the early scares come purely from not being able to see clearly because the camera is out of focus, reflecting Mun’s own vulnerability. Is that a ghost up ahead, or just a regular person?
On the down side, this being a modestly budgeted foreign film, the DVD doesn’t have 5.1 sound, the flashback sequence is a blatant rip-off from the first Ring movie, you might miss a scare because you were reading the damn subtitle at the time, and I had a hard time believing Chow was really a doctor (he looks about eighteen).
It’s a horror, yes, but don’t go in thinking it’s a fast moving Hollywood movie. It’s not. Character development is kept at the forefront, but when the scares do come, they are simple and blunt, as most good shocks are.
In the end the film is, like Bangkok Dangerous, more style over content, but when you have this much style is that really such a bad thing?
Not bad really. We get short documentaries on the making of the film (mostly interviews) and the Pang brothers, who seem to be the real Honk Kong version of The Wachowski brothers. But the standout feature is the trailer section where you get teasers and the trailer for the movie, but also ones for The Ring, Battle Royale, Dead Or Alive 2, City of Lost Children and Bangkok Dangerous. There are also filmographies and an art gallery.
As a cinematic experience, The Eye has all the ingredients: Good performances, good scares, good camerawork and an ending you won’t see coming (my advice is don’t watch any trailers or read other reviews because they’re bound to give it away, as seems the current trend). I will say this: it’s not what you’d ever expect in a horror movie. So…there are moments of brilliance, but The Eye comes a close second to The Ring (and its Hollywood remake for that matter). Nevertheless, it’s a great horror and if there was ever a time to branch out to foreign cinema, this is it.
So turn the volume up, close the curtains, and see The Eye.