by Mel Valentin
After the commercial and critical success of "The Eye," an above average, if flawed, supernatural horror film stylishly directed by Danny and Oxide Pang, a sequel was inevitable (as was the inevitable American remake, scheduled for production later this year with Hideo Nakata in the director’s chair). In "The Eye," a young woman, blinded at an early age, receives a corneal transplants. She awakens from her operation with “second sight,” the ability to see ghosts and interact with them. "The Eye" also centered on a mystery, the identity of the donor and the enigmatic circumstances of her death.To the Pang Brothers’ credit, The Eye 2, written by Lawrence Cheng and Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui, doesn’t simply re-use the first film’s premise, substituting new actors and new shocks. Instead, The Eye 2 takes place in the same universe as The Eye, with ghostly manifestations a given, adding a new scenario and a new plot twist, reincarnation, to the proceedings. Despite the Pang Brothers willingness to take certain risks, The Eye 2 emerges as a flawed, at times, lackluster film, for reasons different from The Eye’s shortcomings.
"Modest variation on the formula (and themes) of the first film."
As The Eye 2 opens, the central character, Joey Cheng (Shu Qi), emotionally distraught after the end of a romantic relationship, slips into despair and into a half-hearted suicide attempt in a Thai hotel (Cheng is Chinese, but apparently English is the common language spoken with the hotel staff). As she wavers between this life and the next, apparitions appear at her bedside before she slips into unconsciousness. After being rushed to a local hospital (and having her stomach pumped, shown in graphic detail), Joey returns to Hong Kong. There, she attempts to contact her ex-lover, but he refuses her phone calls. Much to her disappointment, she discovers that she’s pregnant. Faced with a decision she doesn’t want to make, she hesitates.
The pregnancy, however, is only one problem among many. Her near-death experience has given her “second sight.” Given her emotional instability and partial recovery from the failed relationship, her newfound ability is more curse than gift. While her life continues to unravel, one ghost in particular, a wan woman, persistently haunts her. Joey, it seems, witnesses a reenactment of the woman’s suicide (by speeding train) one afternoon. Despite her instability, or because of it, she decides to keep the baby, which, of course, only exacerbates the visitations. Joey begins to see ghosts floating in mid-air, seemingly underwater, hovering near pregnant women. One scene, involving an unexpected delivery inside an elevator stuck between floors, provides the film with one of the most effectively sustained scares (the other two involve violent suicide attempts).
Thanks to an exposition-spouting monk (Philip Kwok), Joey learns the “why.” Her near-death experience, coupled with her pregnancy (near-life), have allowed her unique access to the spirit world. What she perceives as threats, to herself and her unborn child, may, in fact, not be. By that point, there’s only one question left unresolved, the “who,” the identity of the ghost-woman haunting the central character and the resolution of Joey’s character arc, from egotism and immaturity to selflessness and maturity (it’s more an either/or choice).
Despite a semi-original premise, The Eye 2’s major weakness lies in its shortage of chills, shocks, or scares. Although the Pang Brothers attempt to infuse The Eye 2 with a sense of dread or menace for the protagonist, the inexplicable decision to show the ghost-woman’s face, making her all-too-real, dampens down any possible threat she may pose to the protagonist. In addition, The Eye 2 focuses primarily on a inner conflict (as opposed to an externally driven conflict, personified by a villain), Joey’s road to maturity and acceptance of adult responsibility, which sends The Eye 2 into predictable, soap opera territory (it does give the lead actress multiple opportunities to emote, however, which she handles commendably).More interesting, at least from a Western spiritual and religious perspective, are the unspoken cultural norms expressed in the film about conception, abortion, and when “life” begins. If "The Eye 2" accurately reflects cultural and spiritual norms in Southeast Asia, “ensoulment,” the point in time when the immortal soul is joined to a physical body (most strains of Christianity assume conception), occurs right before birth, not at conception. For the Pang Brothers and their screenwriters, “ensoulment” before birth is an unquestioned, even unquestionable, background assumption for Joey’s journey. It nonetheless makes for a positive, life-affirming idea, as expressed by hopeful ghosts hovering near expectant mothers in the final scene at a Lamaze class.
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originally posted: 06/30/05 02:13:05