Asian horror flicks are generally celebrated as original concepts that eventually get keel-hauled into American mainstream by way of sloppy dub jobs or straight American remakes. The Pang Brothers film The Eye flips this tradition around by taking clear inspiration from popular American thrillers like The Sixth Sense and Blink while still retaining enough originality to capably stand on its own. Plus it's pretty damn creepy.The idea of a blind person surgically regaining the use of their eyesight only to witness a series of decidedly unpleasant visions may not sound like a stunningly original concept (and let's face it; it's not) but the technically proficient Pang Brothers manage to make the conceit just new enough to allow The Eye to transcend its relatively familiar inspirations and deliver a moody and atmospheric thriller that should certainly unsettle audiences on both sides of the Pacific.
Mun (Lee Sin-je) is a sweet young woman who's been blind since the age of two. With the help of Hong Kong's finest surgeons (and the ongoing support of her sister and grandmother), Mun slowly begins to enjoy the gift of sight thanks to an elaborate cornea transplant. Though the patient takes some time to acclimate to her newfound vision, Mun quickly begins to suspect that her donated corneas have come with a particularly nasty side effect: she sees 'shadows'.
That these shadows mainly appear when some unfortunate soul has recently passed away fills the gal with a justifiably unpleasant sense of dread - and that Mun finds herself dealing with these visions on her own (amid much skepticism from her family and doctors) fills the beleaguered woman with a sense of bleak desperation.
But Mun's visions are not limited to gauzy shadow-folk; she often catches glimpses of 'people' that only she can see - an affliction that leads to terror on Mun's part...and a handful of creepy thrills for the viewer.
That much of the narrative reminds one of a half-dozen other thrillers doesn't prevent The Eye from staking some new ground of its own. Sure, there are a few components of The Eye that may not translate well to a North American audience (the musical score wavers between throbbingly intense and ticklishly treacly; Act II sags almost noticably in several spots) but fans of crackerjack 'beyond the grave' thrillers and Japanese flicks in general should find much to enjoy.
Though the jolts come in relatively small doses, The Eye does offer three or four sequences that should have moviegoers squirming delightedly in their seats and the pulse-pounding finalé (while a tiny bit predictable) should absolutely leave viewers leaving the theater with a nervous spring in their step.Given that the current state of American Horror is usually so watered-down and generic, even a 'pretty good' horror import is reason to rejoice. It's not likely that The Eye will spur the sort of frenzy that 'Ring' did a few years back - but a ghost story doesn't have to be revolutionary to deserve an audience. As it stands, The Eye is considerably more entertaining than what generally passes for 'scary' these days and should find itself a pleasantly enthusiastic audience.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Santa Monica Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Santa Monica Film Festival series, click here.