Okay so people ‘seeing dead people’ doesn’t seem like an original idea anymore. I’m sure that pretty much everyone saw Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis, enjoyed it, then proceeded to go around spoiling the ending for everyone else.
Fewer people though would have seen The Eye, a film which would appear to have been inspired by the Hollywood spook-fest.
From what was a great era for Asian horror (in that it was beginning to be appreciated on a wider global scale for the first time) The Eye has the essential elements that brought this genre of film into the public eye. The female star, the slow, lumbering ghosts, the strong reflections of Asian culture, the long shadows, the fluorescent lights and ultimately, a pretty bleak outcome.
Wong Kar Mun (or Mun for short) went blind at a very young age, and although she adapted to life without sight, she obviously longs to have it back.
Fortunately, thanks to the advances in modern medicine, a cornea transplant is made possible, and before she knows it, Mun is under the knife and looking forward to experiencing the world visually once more.
Things don’t seem right as she makes her recovery though. When the bandages are off the young girl sees strange shadows and things start to get weirder when she also hears haunting noises.
Doctors would have her believe that he eyes are still adjusting, and that it’s normal to experience these hallucinations, but when the visions don’t subside, Mun starts to realise that she may in fact be seeing ghosts pretty much everywhere that she goes.
This wouldn’t be too bad, but they also seem to be drawn to her, and many of them are pretty scary looking.
Mun starts to freak out, and with her family being pretty useless, turns to her therapist to work out what’s going on and look into a way to stop it from happening.
And thus the ghost story takes on a detective twist.
The Eye has aged pretty well, still recognised by many as one of the best and most original films of Asian origin. And deservedly so. There’s plenty of tension, horrible emerging forms, great camera work and a female lead that you can really empathise with and care about.
It’s shot at a nice pace, and I didn’t once find myself gazing out of the window as some yawn-provoking dialogue took place.
The shadaowy ‘reaper’ characters are great too, spooky and faceless – the stuff of nightmares. But, the ghosts aren’t actually that horrible. More weird that anything. And although I wouldn’t much like to be followed around by them all day, I’d still weigh it all up and think ‘well, at least I can see again’. Mun doesn’t take it so well.
There’s no doubt that The Eye didn’t have the impact on me that it should have done – perhaps if I had somehow seen it before Sixth Sense, the impact would have been greater. I knew what was coming, the storyline wasn’t ground-breakingly original (beyond the ‘seeing dead people’ part), and my interest was held more by me wanting to know how something was going to happen, as opposed to what was going to happen.
Nonetheless, watching The Eye is time well spent. A ghost story with a romantic twist, which keeps you intrigued and pulls on the old heart-strings. No surprises that it was given the Hollywood re-make treatment.
Additional film information: Gin gwai (2002)