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DVD Review: The Eye

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There is an old horror story about a normal law-abiding citizen getting a transplant from a psychopathic killer. Seems that body part still has the memory of its former owner and wants to take up the killings again.

This premise has been aped in countless movies and TV shows, most notably in Body Parts starring Jeff Fahey (or is it Fah-hay) and that Simpsons episode where Homer has Snake’s hair transplanted to his bald head. It is a pretty tired premise; one that has been done so many times all the originality has been drained from it. I’m waiting for the day when Hollywood green lights a picture about a little girl who gets a toe transplant from Charles Manson.

Chinese directors, the Pang brothers, try to breathe some life into the concept with their 2002 feature, The Eye. Unfortunately, it is the first of the so called Asian Extreme pictures that I’ve seen that I’ve found to be rather lackluster.

It isn’t for a lack of trying. The Pang brothers bring an eye of originality to the premise and create an atmosphere that is quite creepy and interesting. At least in the first half.

In this case, the transplanted body parts are eyeballs. A young blind girl, Wong Kar Mun (Angelica Lee) receives an eye transplant and thusly begins seeing dead people, a la The Sixth Sense.

The Brothers Pang introduce this concept by having the dead show up in shadows. Visually, the first half of the film is stunning. We see the world through Mun’s adjusting-to-sight eyes and there are creeping things lurking just about everywhere. In an impossible to explain in words, but absolutely-must-see series of scenes, Mun comes to understand that what she sees with her eyes is beyond the realm of the natural. As a viewer, I was knocked up side the head with the brilliant display of imagery

There is no “I see dead people” revelation here. The revelations come slowly, building tension along the way. Having no concept of vision, Mun has no understanding of what is real and what may be supernatural. By allowing the audience to understand quickly what Mun must slowly learn, the film is quite effective in creating a sense of horror.

The camera pans slowly around corners as the music builds anticipation to what could be hiding just out of sight. There are nice jolts of music as the camera reveals a new surprise. Here it seems the Pang brothers have taken a page out of the American scary movie books instead of the Asian counterpart. Scare the people with jolts instead of developing actual creepy situations.

In the second half, the film begins to truly unravel. With only a few conversations, Mun manages to have her psychotherapist fall in love with her and be willing to drop everything and travel to Thailand to investigate the donor of her dead seeing eyes.

From horror, the movie now travels into a melodramatic mystery. The doctor and Mun find dark secrets in the story of the young lady who had Mun’s eyes first. Of course they are forced into setting things right, and the movie pretty much falls apart. Oh, it’s nothing terrible or cringe inducing, but it is formulaic and not nearly as interesting as the first two thirds of the film.

I found The Eye in the foreign section of my local Blockbuster. It was well worth the five dollars I laid down for it, if just for the glorious visuals of the first half.

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About Mat Brewster

  • You’ve got to love that Simpsons episode Mary K. It’s right up there with the other Homer gets hair episode.

    Sir Duke and Sir Fleming, what’s good about the Eye is really wonderful, and what’s bad is a rather awful mess.

    I’ll at least be keeping an eye on the Pang Brothers from now on.

  • Excellent review, Sir Brewster, an one i agree with entirely. the fucked-up parts genre is fairly tiresome (Body Parts excepted, an way back when wonders like Hands Of Orlock) an yet that first half hour of The Eye.. among the most glorious openin thirds of any horror flick anywhere. that it derails so horrendously is nothin short of heartbreakin.

    the eye 2 is reasonably interestin, but has less scares than even the last third of the original. still, it’s visually glorious.

  • As soon as you said:
    Seems that body part still has the memory of its former owner and wants to take up the killings again — Something rang a bell in my head (no, my head was not transplanted from someone else). Then I traveled down to the next paragraph, see your Simpsons reference and voila! there it is! I guess I don’t have much experience with those sorts of scenes, except from the Simpsons. Such is my lot in life. Guess I need to expand the view, or my eye.

  • Body Parts! Haha, excellent.

    I agree with your conclusions, lots of interesting ideas well produced and a good atmosphere, but yes the impact does lessen as the film progresses.