Here’s the thing about these “I see dead people” movies: if I woke up one day and realized I was seeing ghosts, I would be scared; at least, for the first couple of days, and weeks, and perhaps even the first couple of months. But after a while, I think I would get used to it. After all, it’s not like the ghosts ever do anything to me. They basically just stand there looking all creepy and whatnot. After a while, wouldn’t seeing ghosts just standing in the corner or sitting in the cab next to you be sort of…blah?
“The Eye 2”, the sequel to the Pang Brothers’ immensely popular — critically and commercially — 2002 horror film starring Angelica Lee, returns in 2004 with Qi Shu (“Looking For Mr. Perfect”) at the top of the marquee. Shu plays Joey, a distraught young woman whose suicide attempts end badly — with her still alive and now with the ability to see ghosts. One ghost in particular is haunting Joey, appearing to her at every turn. If that wasn’t bad enough, Joey discovers that she’s pregnant, and that darn persistent ghost seems to either want her baby, or has something to do with it.
To get it out of the way first: this is why I adore Qi Shu. She’s not only a pleasure to look at, but she’s proven to be a fine, fine actress indeed. Given the right material, the young woman excels on many levels. Rather kicking ass in “So Close” or playing the femme fatale in “Transporter”, Qi Shu has so successfully shed her Category III days that her transition from cheapie sex films to mainstream respect is nothing short of astounding. In “The Eye 2”, Shu is in top form. Beautiful, haunting, emotional, and switching back and forth with effortless flair.
But alas, I’m afraid Qi Shu is the only reason you’ll want to bother with “The Eye 2”. Although sold as a sequel to the Angelica Lee starrer (and in fact the premise, while not exactly the same, is close enough), this follow-up is just barely good enough to waste one’s time with. As with most Asian horror films, unless you are a complete novice to the genre, nothing here will even remotely scare you. “The Eye” gave me goose bumps and I swear the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. “The Eye 2” can’t say the same.
Oh sure, the Pang brothers know how to make you jump. But getting the audience to jump is a lot easier than making them scared. To make the audience jump all you have to do is perform a quick whip with the camera and shower the audience with loud screeching noise. Then again, if all you’re capable of doing is make the audience jump by assaulting them with suddenly loud screeching noise and whipping the camera around to show a ghost standing in the background, you’re not trying very hard. When it comes to being a horror movie, I’m afraid “The Eye 2” is too lazy to be effective.
Clocking in at a scant 80 minutes, “The Eye 2” feels at least 30 minutes too long. Most of the film is devoted to Joey going about her life pining for her married lover Sam (Jesdaporn Pholdee) while getting “scared” by ghostly apparitions. Once again, I have to point out that if ghosts keep appearing to you, shouldn’t you be used to it by now? In the film, Joey is continually haunted for 8 straight months, with the ghosts coming faster as her pregnancy moves along. And yet, 8 months later, she’s still screaming at the sight of ghosts. Sheesh. Some people just can’t adapt.
From a directorial angle, the Pangs have certainly improved as filmmakers. “The Eye 2” is a visually pleasing film, with a lot of intimate close-ups of Joey and attention paid to her lonely, pointless existence. Ironically, “The Eye 2” would have worked better as a straight drama, or even a tragic love story, instead of the horror film it was billed as. More often than not, the horror elements — the falling ghosts, the now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t apparitions — feel forced and out of place. As a meditation on life, love, and Eastern spirituality, the film works.
I don’t recommend “The Eye 2” for anyone who has seen one or two Asian Ghost Stories before, and are looking for another film to scare them. This sequel just doesn’t have what it takes to be scary; and one suspects it really doesn’t have it in itself to even try. But for anyone looking for a tour de force performance from an attractive actress, “The Eye 2” will suffice. Qi Shu does a fantastic job, giving a performance that would be extraordinary in a straight drama. Here, she just comes across as better than the material deserves.
Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (director) / Lawrence Cheng, Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui (screenplay)
CAST: Qi Shu …. Joey Cheng
Jesdaporn Pholdee …. Sam
Eugenia Yuan …. Sam’s wife