Eye, The

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 08/10/05 11:09:34

"More ghost stories should be this good."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Here’s the movie “The Sixth Sense” should have been. “The Eye” is an extra-spooky ghost story filtered through the body part transplant genre, with enough creepy atmospherics to provide a solid number of chills. Directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang (“Bangkok Dangerous”) lend a dark, disturbing mood to their story, resulting in plenty of haunting imagery and at least one scene that’ll get under your skin for good.

The plot, which is nothing new, finds Mun (Lee Sin-Je), who’s been blind since birth, undergoing a cornea transplant, allowing her to see for the first time. Several films have tackled this issue before (“Blink” played it for thrills, “At First Sight” went for the romance angle), and all have commented on how disorienting the whole procedure can become. After all, Mun has no “visual vocabulary,” no way of understanding what she’s seeing without the help of her other senses.

But this is not Mun’s reason for concern, as she’s actually adjusting fairly well to this new sense. No, her big problems start late one night, when she sees a tall, shadowy figure escort a fellow patient from the hospital. No big deal, except in the morning, Mun learns that the old lady she saw passed away overnight. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mun Sees Dead People.

Only she doesn’t quite know it yet. After all, she’s still learning to comprehend what she’s seeing in this real world; is she ready to start figuring out which people she sees are alive and which ones are phantoms?

“The Eye” toys with this disorientation, offering up a few effective shocks and surprises along the way. But soon it settles into a regular ol’ ghost tale, and a ripping good one at that. We learn that those who commit suicide are forced to repeat their final actions like a stuck record, thus explaining the odd little boy who keeps showing up in Mun’s hallway, asking the same question again and again. Other ghosts appear due to unfinished business, while others still simply don’t know they’re dead yet. And Mun gets to meet them all.

My favorite sequence in the film comes midway, and exists only to freak us out, with no relation to the main plot. In it, Mun needs to take an elevator to her apartment, only there’s a man in the elevator... but he’s not showing up on any security monitor. The Pangs wind the tension from there, making the scene an exercise in pure suspense filmmaking. It’s great stuff.

The story winds up going to familiar places, with Mun and her doctor (Lawrence Chou) doing the obligatory investigation into the former owner of Mun’s new eyes. But while this is stuff we’ve seen before, the screenplay (written by the Pangs and Jo Jo Hui) goes the unexpected route and finds an emotional base to these later scenes. There’s a great sadness hanging in the air here, mixing with the horror in such a way that the frights never feel cheap. This movie understands that while ghosts may be here to scare the crap out of us, whatever happened to make them ghosts must add some sort of tragedy to their existence. This is a ghost story that cares about its ghosts as much as it cares for its living characters.

By giving their movie such emotional weight, the Pangs have crafted a horror movie that’s more effectual than most because it reaches us on a more complete level. But don’t think it’s all emotion here - there are plenty of powerful shocks and nifty spook-outs to satisfy anyone looking for a strong horror treat.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.