From Hong Kong comes “The Eye,” a supernatural thriller that has already caught the eye of Tom Cruise, who bought the rights to remake it in English.
As a Hollywood product, however, I suspect it will look even more like “The Sixth Sense” than it already does. In Chinese, written and directed by twin brothers Oxide and Danny Pang, it has enough style to overcome the weaknesses and over-familiarity of the story.
With dark atmosphere to spare, “The Eye” tells of Wong Kar Mun (Lee Sin-je), a young woman who has been blind since age 2. She receives a cornea transplant, restoring her sight but bringing with it unwanted side effects. For example, she sees ghosts. Some of these ghosts are mean. Their purpose, and what to do about them, Mun determines, must relate to the person the corneas came from. And so a search begins.
The Pangs are trading more in suspense than horror here. Actual violence is hinted at more than shown, and only occasionally even hinted at. The idea is to put us into Mun’s world, ghosts and all, and at that the Pangs are wonderfully successful. Mun’s desperate retreat back into darkness rather than deal with the dreadful things she sees is a chilling psychological touch in a genre that often ignores psychology.
The film moves at a deliberate, methodical pace, now and then exploding into scenes of nightmarish terror. One scene on an elevator will surely haunt you for days, and a key moment half-way through when Mun has a major realization is one of the best plot-related shocks in recent memory.
The problem is, it doesn’t add up to much. The story’s climax is a disappointment because it’s exactly what we expected; the subsequent resolution fails to add anything, either.
There is also too much reliance on music and creepy sound effects to achieve atmosphere. These can be used effectively, and often are here. But at times they seem to overpower what’s occurring on screen, to the extent that we notice the sound more than we notice what it’s supposed to be underscoring.
But I liked the film. It’s creepy and forbidding, the way good thrillers are. I suspect it would not hold up to multiple viewings, but it’s a kick one time through, anyway.
B (1 hr., 38 min.; in Cantonese with subtitles; )