Saturday, January 12, 2008

Movie Review: The Eye

This is the original 2002 Chinese film, not the (inevitable) 2008 remake. I had seen this movie touted a lot by J-Horror fans as right up there with the likes of Ringu, Ju-On and other Asian horror films that had crossed over to America with some success. In my view, this was merely an O.K. movie, one that squandered a pretty good set-up.

A young girl, blind since age 2, undergoes a transplant operation to restore her sight. While learning how to see again, she begins seeing strange visions of people and other shadowy forms (although she doesn't recognize her visions as unusual at first, since she doesn't know what "normal sight" is). She also begins hearing from these visions; it isn't ever explained how receiving magical corneas result in magical hearing, though.

At any rate, after a few good scares, the story eventually devolves into the "help a restless spirit achieve peace" cliche. This sort of thing can be effective. In Ringu and The Ring, there was a notion of an active investigation, some threat to the protagonist to drive tension, and a countdown clock. In The Eye, there are some effective scares early on, but we never see if there is some threat to the heroine, Mun, or if she is simply able to see things others aren't (a la The Sixth Sense or The Frighteners). Indeed, at one point she comes to the decision that maybe this is something she can live with.

There really isn't any investigation here, either - Mun and her psychologist browbeat a couple of doctors into revealing the backstory of the donor that is causing Mun's visions, but the journey is essentially a straight line with no shocks. Worse, almost immediately after getting the donor's doctor to tell the backstory, the movie then proceeds to show us the same backstory in the form of a flashback. As a result, there was almost no tension in the second retelling.

So, The Eye doesn't really end up with either the scares, the mystery or the atmosphere of other ghost stories. As I said, it's an O.K. movie, but one comes away thinking more could have been done. I'm just not expecting Jessica Alba to be the one to do it. Three stars.

(As last year, I'm tracking all the movies I see this year on the DVDTalk forums.)

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