As the craze continues to sweep cinemas across the globe, Hong Kong gets its first digital 3D film with “The Child’s Eye”, the latest in the long running horror series which began back in 2002 with “The Eye”. Appropriately enough, the film sees the return of original directors the Pang Brothers, who have since become well known for their cutting edge use of visual effects and techniques, as seen recently in their spectacular “Storm Warriors”. The film has a hip young cast, headlined by Taiwanese idol Rainie Yang (“Spider Lilies”), continuing to win more respect for her acting career, with support from Elanne Kong (“Rebellion”), Gordon Lam (“Infernal Affairs”), and Jo Koo (“The Detective”), and with Shawn Yue (“Love in a Puff”) in a guest role.
The film is set back in the Pangs’ hometown of Bangkok, where Rainie (Rainie Yang), sulky boyfriend Lok (Shawn Yue) and two other couples find themselves stranded after protestors force the airport to be closed. As the city is gripped by riots and chaos they take refuge in an old, crumbling hotel with a rather suspicious seeming Chinese owner (Gordon Lam). It doesn’t take long for weird things to start happening, and soon enough Lok goes missing, followed by the other boys. Helped by a young girl and her apparently ghost-seeing dog, Rainie and her remaining friends set about exploring the hotel, coming up against the vengeful spirit of the owner’s dead wife.
Though the Pang Brothers are certainly a logical choice for taking Hong Kong cinema into the potentially treacherous world of 3D, it has to be said that of late their flashy brand of film making has seen them frequently being accused of style over substance. Certainly, this has been a fair accusation with films like “Storm Warriors” and “Recycle”, which were gorgeous to look at and technically impressive, but lacking in story or character. To an extent the same is true with “The Child’s Eye”, with the Pangs still letting things slip in terms of narrative and pacing. The film is an uneven affair, with a plot that never quite hangs together or really grips and some sketchily written characters that despite the best efforts of the cast, in particular the ever likeable Rainie Yang, never really earn much sympathy.
The story itself is nothing new, following the template set down by the other “Eye” films pretty closely, with trouble in Thailand and ghosts lurking in the background, only visible to the viewer and some of the characters. Around the half hour mark things do pick up once the boys disappear, and after being led to the basement by the young girl and her dog, a chair flies at the screen and they find themselves in some murky otherworldly setting. The film does have a few interesting and original ideas that give it a boost and help to keep things entertaining, most notably the dog theme – in fact, the film might well have been called “The Dog’s Eye”. Not only does the ghost spotting canine playing a leading role (resulting in some unintentional laughs during the many scenes in which the animal appears to be supremely uninterested in the ensuing shenanigans), but a truly bizarre half human, half dog child also getting a lot of screen time. The film is certainly at its best during these weird scenes, and the crossbreed beast is a memorably freaky creation, making for some enjoyable surreal scenes, especially when the Pangs’ decide to give the proceedings a crazy sentimental streak during its final act, leading up to a strange and unnecessarily inconclusive ending.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s visual effects are its main selling point, and on these grounds it does score highly. Despite the 3D gimmick, which obviously loses something away big screen, even for those viewers with 3D televisions, the film is far more grounded and less CGI heavy than “Storm Warriors”. This is definitely to its benefit, and the film’s more surreal moments are all the more effective for being used with some economy. The special effects themselves are imaginative, and though a few instances of CGI fall a little flat, they do result in a good number of creative shocks and a smattering of gruesome moments. The Pangs are undoubtedly amongst the most striking of directors, and the film sees them on good form and is unlikely to disappoint viewers looking for high production values and creepy eye candy.
This was always likely to be the case, and as such “The Child’s Eye” delivers almost entirely as expected. Although a bit weak in certain areas, the film is very much in the Pang Brothers’ style, and with or without its 3D gimmick is a solid and indeed welcome entry in the increasingly rare Hong Kong horror genre.
Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (director) / Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (screenplay)
CAST: Raine Yang … Rainie
Shawn Yue … Lok
Ciwi Lam … Ciwi
Rex Ho … Rex
Elaane Kwong … Ling
Jo Koo …
Gordon Lam …