The phrase “Two minds are better than one” seems to hold sway when it comes to sibling filmmakers. Which might explain the recent boom in multiple filmmakers from the same family attached to the same film project. America boasts almost a half dozen that comes immediately to mind, with the better-known ones being the Wachowskis (“The Matrix”), the Coens (“The Man Who Wasn’t There”), and the Hughes (“From Hell”). Now Asia has contributed to this rather odd phenomenon with the Pang Brothers (“Bangkok Dangerous”), who brings us “The Eye.”
“The Eye” borrows the thrust of its plot — the ability to see dead people — from “The Sixth Sense.” In “The Eye,” the lead is Mun (Angelica Lee), a young woman blinded since 2, who receives a cornea implant and with it, the ability to see again. Unfortunately for Mun, the cornea’s former owner was a girl with psychic powers that allowed her to see dead people and a dark, silhouetted shadow that appears to guide the dead to, well, wherever it is that the dead go.
The Pang brothers (as they’re listed in the credits) wastes very little time attacking our senses with its promise of ghosts. The movie almost immediately shifts into overdrive and the first ghostly apparition appears to Mun at around the 10-minute mark, as soon as the gauze tape is removed from her new eyes. From that moment on, the ghost moments come fast and furious, with one ghost appearing after another. This might have become old real fast, except the Pangs have an uncanny ability to make every single apparition as scary as possible. I have never felt goosebumps crawl up and down my spine so many times. What’s worst (for my manhood, anyway) is that the Pangs did it to me everytime! Even after the ghosts stopped being new and became almost a daily presence, the Pangs still managed to send shivers up my spine.
The film is boasted by the perfect casting of Angelica Lee (“Princess D”) as the lead. The young actress portrays Mun with a simple honesty that makes us care for her, mostly because the Pangs are so adept at frightening us that we feel what Mun is feeling. She’s scared? Why not, we are! Lee is a newcomer, and has only done two films to date. Her performance here is nothing short of perfect, and she handles the frightening episodes and the quiet, contemplative scenes with equal skill.
Angelica Lee’s endearing presence aside, the film has a rather uninteresting supporting cast. Lawrence Chow as a Doctor is badly miscast. The actor is not only too young to convincingly hold any medical degrees (flashbacks to the teen doc TV show “Doogie Howser, M.D.” comes to mind), but he proves to be lacking in thespian ability. This makes Chow somewhat of a non-entity, especially when he’s acting opposite the shining Angelica Lee, who overwhelms him with her emotional and convincing performance.
The film moves at a quick pace at first, which leads to the movie’s one big problem — that is, the film moves much too fast for its own good. There is a feeling of too much, too soon, which left me to wonder (while watching the movie) how long it will take for the film and its creators to run out of steam. The answer: the halfway mark, where “The Eye” stops becoming a scary ghost story and instead chose to pay homage (wink wink) to the resolution plot used in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense.”
Despite a familiar plot (I can recall at least a half-dozen movies and episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits” that involved transplanted bodyparts turning bad), “The Eye” is a highly effective scare film when it is content to just scare. Its ghosts are well done and appear when we least expect them, sometimes attacking Mun (and us) and sometimes just lingering with full-tilt creepiness in the background. There is a great scene involving Mun being trapped in an elevator with a ghost that is particularly harrowing. Let’s just say I’ll never feel right standing in an “empty” elevator ever again.
The Pang brothers use a variety of camera tricks, from slow pans to reveal shots, to bring the ghosts to life (in a manner of speaking). Their use of these traditional filming techniques are truly inspiring, especially since the ghost ceases to become “close and personal” when special effects get involved (which they do at various intervals). The computer effects only achieve to take the audience out of the immediate scene because it screams, “This is just a movie!” at the top of its lungs.
“The Eye” boasts a highly enjoyable and scary first half, but quickly goes downhill there after. Once the secret of the cornea’s former owner is revealed, the film ceases to be a ghost story and instead becomes a minor mystery that culminates in a rather out-of-place sequence involving fireballs and more special effects. It might have been better if the Pangs had stuck to traditional slow pans and reveal shots instead.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t add CGI.”
Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (director) / Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang, Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui (screenplay)
CAST: Angelica Lee …. Mun
Lawrence Chou …. Dr. Wah
Chutcha Rujinanon …. Ling
Yut Lai So …. Yingying
Candy Lo …. Yee