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Eye, The

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 21, 2003
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 30, 2003 | E-mail the Author

Bangkok Dangerous directors The Pang Bros. serve up another film in Asia's recent trend of subtle supernatural chillers. Inevitable comparisons to The Ring and The Sixth Sense aside, The Eye (2002) actually borrows its premise form the old "transplanted body parts that are haunted by their owners" bit that has been done in everything from The Beast with Five Fingers, to Body Parts, and The Hand.

Mun has been blind since she was two years old. After living eighteen years without sight, she is about to see the light... the light, and some other things. Her cornea transplant is successful but she must train herself to recognize these new perceptions of shapes, depth, and light. While recovering in the hospital, she sees shadowy figures walking alongside the patients and hears and sees people that seem to disappear. But, to Mun, who is adjusting her new blurred world, she is unsure what to make of these completely unfamiliar images.

After Mun goes home, she begins to see stranger and stranger things- a forlorn boy in the apartment complex hallway constantly asking if she has seen his report card, nightmares of some unfamiliar place, her room darkly shifts into a different, phantom room, and she is continually confronted by lingering, malformed visions of figures no one else can see. As she begins to reject her cursed vision and recede back into her blind world, her psychotherapist suspects that it may not all be in her head and aides her in tracking down her donor.

I have trifocals. From what my optometrist tells me, it is rather rare for people my age to have trifocals (its usually a middle age thing). Trifocals are needed to correct a stigmatism that comes from a shift in focus, going from focusing on the smaller details to the wider. In my case, from time spent reading, writing, and being hunched over studying the minutia while making photos. Like many people, remove my glasses and I'm as good as blind. Except for those two inches in front of my face, the world becomes a muddy blur. So, I know the horror of not being able to see and, during those first few frames of Mun's indiscict vision of human shapes hovering in the hospital hallway, I was already pleased with The Eye.

The Eye succeeds in simple quick scares heightened by some disturbing visuals that remain unsettling without turning to gore. The Pang Bros. definitely have that old school Robert Wise The Haunting sense of nightmarish eye cnady combined with perfect auditory fx to make you jump in your seat a little. Be it a spirit in Mun's calligraphy class or an old man hovering behind her in an elevator slowly drawing nearer and turning around, they made the hairs on the back of this jaded horror film viewers neck stand up.

The sad part about The Eye is, that while a good little horror film with some great visuals and a few unforgettable scares, it is only good, never great or the all it could really be. One wishes they spent as much time fleshing out the plot as they did the handful of fright sequences. Even such things as Mun's unease with the world of sight could have better payoff. For instance, scares and tension could have been heightened by the fact that those unfamiliar with sight have trouble with perceptions we take for granted. So, like when Mun is running from the ghosts, for Mun, navigating something like a stairway or a sidewalk next to traffic could have been just as disconcerting and threatening as the phantasms. But, aside from the ghosts, Mun adjusts to the world of sight rather well, though the film does win points when Mun realizes that what she sees in the mirror... well, I wont spoil it.

Yeah, while the creepy visuals and Angelica Lee Sin-ji's portrayal as Mun are enthralling, most of The Eye falls into horror movie cliché and tired predictability. It doesn't take too much of a stretch to see where every single plotline is going, from the tacked on romantic interest of her hunky young psychotherapist, the terminally ill girl that befriends her in the hospital, to the supernatural nature of her cornea donor. So, while it lacks an inventive plot and has some cheesball moments, like Mun being kicked out of her job with a blind orchestra, it makes up for these flaws in effective frights and a good, blindsided heroine

The DVD: Lion's Gate

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The Pang Bros. cinematic choice was to use softer focus and muted colors enhancing the creeps of the film and enabling them to shoot more darkened settings. This anamorphic transfer presents this very well, though, more so than usual, some of this visual charm of getting lost in the images will really be lost on smaller screens. No transfer quibbles that I could see and appears to be relatively free of any glaring pixellation or artifacts. The print does show some spots and the occasional fleck or two, which is disappointing on a film so recent. So, be ready for a stylistically soft and sometimes grainy image... turn off the lights... try to get scared.

Sound: Cantonese 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is fine, crisp and clear with very nice subtitles. Fx noise is the most important with the occasional thick boom coming through and other little ambient noises settling onto the side speakers. While technically fine, a real minus for The Eye is its score, which, in a film about a classical violist, unfortunately is synthetic and lame especially when it comes to her violin (I think they either used a synthesizer villain or an electric- either way, it sounds horrible.)

Extras: Chapter Selections--- US Trailer and TV Spot--- Preview Trailers for Morvern Caller, The Housekeeper, Directors Label.--- "Making of The Eye" Featurette (15:04). Nice, succinct featurette featuring the actors, producers, and directors discussing various stages of the film, from the story, the shoot, the fx, and plenty of behind the scenes footage.

Conclusion: Like The Ring and Kairo, The Eye has been snatched up for a US remake. Honestly, it is a film flawed enough that I can see several ways to strengthen the scares and tighten the premise into a successful remake. Still, Hollywood isn't known for its restraint, and that is where The Eye becomes a winner. So, we'll just see... The disc is good- not so good that importers need to upgrade, but for region one fans interested in Asian horror the disc would be decent purchase. And, you know, get it before that remake comes out.

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