More “Scary Movie” than “The Amityville Horror”, the Pang Brothers’ “The Eye 10″, the latest entry into their highly successful “The Eye” series, is a surprisingly funny comedy with some decent frights thrown in for good measure. The fact that “The Eye 10″ is not an all-out horror film, or that much of its ghost elements are played for laughs (we are told that the most surefire way to see a ghost is to bend over and stick your head between your legs and look behind you), makes it all the easier to swallow. When you think about it, it actually makes sense for the Pangs to go the parody route, what with the series having lost much of its steam with the very pedestrian “The Eye 2″.
The “10” in the title refers to the film’s conceit that there are 10 ways you can see a ghost. One such way involves the already mentioned head between the legs method, while another is banging on bowls at a busy crosswalk at night. (And apparently if your bowl happens to break while you’re drumming for ghosts, you can use your teeth in its place.) There are eight more, each more absurd than the next. To be honest, I’m not sure if the Pangs made these 10 “encounters” up themselves, or if the ideas were derived from Thai folklore, urban legends, or old wives tale. Either/or, seeing characters playing hide and seek in the woods at night with a black cat in order to attract ghosts is worth a chuckle or two.
The film follows 4 Hong Kongers visiting Thailand, where they are led about by their Thai buddy Chongkwai (Ray McDonald, who looks a lot like Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, hair and all). Chongkwai introduces the bored friends to a book he found one night in an old bookstore that explains the ten ways to conjure ghosts. After a series of ghostly encounters, Gofei (Kris Gu) goes missing in the aforementioned hide and seek in the woods at night. Determined to find her boyfriend, April (Isabella Leung) soon also goes missing. Justifiably freaked out, cousins May (Kate Yeung) and Ted (Chen Po Lin) hightails it back to Hong Kong. But ghosts, it seems, don’t need plane tickets, and soon May and Ted are finding ghosts around every corner.
I’m probably making “The Eye 10″ out to be scarier than it really is. The film is separated into two parts, the first taking place in Thailand, with the friends going through half of the encounters found in Chongkwai’s book. The other half follows May and Ted in Hong Kong, where Ted starts seeing glimpses of a mysterious Thai woman he met in Thailand, while May is haunted by a basketball. Well, a ghost playing with a basketball, but most of the time it’s just the basketball rolling around on the ground or floating in the air. Needless to say, it’s not very scary, which is probably the whole point.
“The Eye 10″ does make a brief attempt at connecting itself to the two previous installments, but it’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss moments. The film actually has little in common with the previous two installments, in particular the terrifying Angelica Lee original. There are more than a few nods to the previous two films, including an elevator scene that will bring back fond memories of Angelica Lee’s hellish experiences from the original. Here, it’s funny. Not laugh out loud funny, but still funny enough to qualify “The Eye 10″ as a comedy, which I suppose is funny enough.
As a parody, “The Eye 10″ has some nice moments, many of them coming from the film’s skewering of some of the genre’s over saturated conventions, including the presence of long haired female ghosts, except here they have a tendency to drool a lot. The ghosts themselves are interesting, in that they appear formless, like moving shadows. The ghosts would probably be scary if only you couldn’t combat them with your breath or a well-placed fart. That may sound a bit gross, but it’s actually quite funny onscreen.
Those familiar with the eclectic visual styles of the Pangs (in particular their excessive style over substance work in “The Eye 2″) might be a little disappointed here. The camerawork is not as attention grabbing, and some of the over reliance on CGI is sometimes off putting. But the Pangs haven’t forgotten how to create atmosphere, and the film’s best moments, aesthetically speaking, comes from close confines, such as inside a claustrophobic subway station or the run down hallways of May’s apartment building. Fear not, you cowards; whenever it seems as if the atmosphere is about to suffocate you, the film deftly cuts the tension with a comedy bit, such as when Ted finds himself possessed by a ghost and, at the same time, caught up in a break dancing battle with two kids.
It goes without saying that “The Eye 10″ is nowhere near as good as the original, although it is on par, if not a lot more lively (no pun intended) than the first sequel. As a parody of the genre, “The Eye 10″ has some good laughs, and the characters, while broadly written and shallow, are still identifiable enough to be engaging. In particular Chen Po Lin’s Ted, who is hilarious, and Kate Yeung, who is yummy as our de facto heroine (she gets most of the screentime in the second half). Could it have been funnier? Probably. Could it have been a better movie? Highly unlikely.
Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (director) / Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang, Mark Wu (screenplay)
CAST: Chen Po Lin …. Ted
Kris Gu …. Gofei
Ray McDonald …. Chongkwai
Bongkoj Khongmalai …. Mystery Thai Girl
Isabella Leung …. April
Kate Yeung …. May