The Eye

Reviewed by: Em

June 15, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

Directors: Danny and Oxide Pang

HK/Thai 2002

Cast: Lee Sin-Je, Lawrence Chow, So Yut Lai, Chutcha Rujinaon, Candy Lo


Building on the success of their previous work "Bangkok Dangerous", the Pang brothers' latest presentation is the mystery thriller of "The Eye". Not having seen the former, I went into this screening with a blank canvas and an open mind, expecting only some scary moments and some exciting scenes. I wasn't overwhelmed but then it wasn't really disappointing either.

Story Overview

Wong Ka Man has been blind since she was two years old and has adapted completely to life without sight. Living with her grandmother and sister in Hong Kong, she has built her own lifestyle, social circles and interests, in particular at the centre for the blind where she plays the violin in the orchestra. Our story begins at the hospital, where after 18 years, Man opens her eyes to the light after a corneal transplant.

The operation is a great success and gradually, with the support of her family and the expertise of Dr. Lo, the consultant, and his nephew also Dr. Lo, the psychologist, Man gradually faces the changes to her life after regaining her sight. However, she finds that she can see more than just mortals and realises that she has regained more than just the gift of vision: she can also see the normally invisible realms of the spirits and ghosts. Horrified and desperate, she seeks help from Wah (the psychologist Dr. Lo) who has fallen in love with her and despite some initial reticence, he promises to help her.

The following investigations lead them to encounters with more petrifying phantoms, the appreciation that not all ghouls are terrifying and a beautiful friendship with a terminally ill cancer patient. Ultimately, Man and Wah end up in a small village in Thailand where they come face to face with the original owner of "The Eye" and experience at first hand the horrors which she had been through and that had caused her death.

My Thoughts

To describe this film in one word, I would say it is "atmospheric". From the eerie, grasping hands of the opening credits to the deliberately haunting sound effects when the ghosts appear and the remarkable blending of the special effects with the real-life cinematography, each scene is well thought out and the chilling atmosphere is brought to a maximum. In stark contrast, the touching moments when the characters are faced with memories, love, despair and hope are not neglected and again the same focus on atmosphere enhances the feelings of the audience.

The storyline is innovative and yet maintains the essence and creepiness of a more traditional thriller. For those looking for a good fright, you will find a couple of moments, which give you an adrenaline rush, but I didn't feel that the writers/directors really wanted this effect throughout the film. They introduced enough scary scenes to describe the extent of Man's fear, but moved on to the more psychological effects on her and to provoke the deeper curiosity of the viewer into why she was so afraid. I found that the gradual feeding of information in line with the investigations of Wah flowed well and kept me interested throughout, and my mind ticking over with questions, which would be answered in time. By the end of the film, I was left with the fulfillment of knowing the grounds of the plot and the satisfaction that I would't be thinking too much about the "whys and wherefore" and more about the entire perception of the film.

Casting of the characters proved rather intriguing. The lead role is played by Angelica Lee Sin-Je who puts in a less than convincing effort as the dread-ridden Man. In a role that could have been expressed so much more emotionally and heartily, I was rather unimpressed by her performance. Maybe this was down to her concentration on the expressions (or rather lack of them) in her eyes and taking care to portray a girl who was still learning to use these organs, but this had a negative effect on the rest of her facial features and at one stage led me to severely doubt that her character was as distraught as she was meant to be in that particular scene, when she looked seemingly uninterested as the ghostly beings harassed her.

Lawrence Chow as Doctor Lo is equally emotion-free and came across as rather wooden. Perhaps this is the way his character was meant to be, but despite his little quirky reaction when Dr Lo Jr. first meets with Man, thanks to the wonderful interaction of Candy Lo, his chemistry with Angelica is virtually non-existent and his concern for her seems to result from a necessity as opposed to true love. Talking of Candy Lo, her ever-quirky nature and also the much more dramatic performance of the Thai actress playing cornea-donor Ling redeemed the casting decisions as they certainly helped to fill the voids in a rather hollow space when it came to acting talent.

After looking into the backgrounds of the main stars, I realised that this film is a high-profile attempt to shoot some established musical artists into the realms of big screen entertainment and acknowledgement from the cinema audiences. However, despite being equipped with a captivating storyline and fantastic special effects, the great disappointment remains with the raw acting skills of these actors, which could have made the difference in my opinion of the film between "acceptable" and "outstanding".

A point I must mention is the contribution made to the "atmospheric" air by the amazing special effects once again created by Centro Workshops, the team behind the beasts and kung fu moves of "Stormriders". The ghostly apparitions were convincingly and seamlessly brought to life by this experienced CGI team and coupled with the excellent choices of spooky music and eerie sounds created a build up making everyone in the cinema brace themselves for something to jump out of the screen (even when nothing actually did). Truly incredible and definitely a reason to take any opportunity to see it in a darkened hall on a big screen and cinema sound for total effect!

All in all, the film is worthwhile watching and in terms of the story, the effects and the presentation it is all very reasonable and worthy of representing the Far Eastern film-makers on the international market. However, with a better choice of actors and maybe a slightly bigger budget the potential of this film could have been further released. With news of a US remake in the pipelines, I am interested to see how this will reflect and hopefully build on the original, which certainly has the untapped basis of a blockbuster.

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