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The Eye
2003 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang
Producer: Lawrence Cheng
Written By: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang
Starring: Lee Sin-je, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon
Review by: Harrison Cheung

Do you smell anything scary?
Rumor has it that Tom Cruise bought the rights to the Hong Kong movie, THE EYE, anxious to make an English version the same way the Japanese RINGU was remade into last year's hit, THE RING.

THE EYE is apparently a huge hit in Asia - no doubt helped by having a tri-lingual script - the cast travels from Hong Kong to Thailand, speaking Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai. Unlike Western horror movies of the same ilk - most obviously THE SIXTH SENSE - THE EYE uses a lot of Asian funeral and death imagery as well as Asian superstitions about past lives and vengeful spirits. It's a smart story with a couple of surprise turns.

However, the film's craftsmanship is an entirely different thing. Written and directed by The Pang Brothers (one of whom has the interesting name of Oxide), THE EYE suffers from wanting to be too many things, pulling in some hyper-editing from MTV to THE MATRIX (hey, the Wachowski brothers!), a terrible mishmash of soundtracks from almost every genre - Hong Kong cantopop to B-movie sonic scares that went out of fashion here after, oh, say, HALLOWEEN 2? And, no Hong Kong movie would be complete without an implausible PG-13 love relationship that almost demands a Celine Dion ballad over the closing credits. Almost.

The story is horror movie standard - we've seen this from as far back as Rod Serling's CIRCLE OF FEAR. A blind woman (Angelica Lee) gets a cornea transplant. As she recovers, she sees dead people thanks to her mysterious new peepers! Of course, in the hospital, she sees lots of dead people but when she gets out of the hospital back to her apartment, she sees lots more dead people! Road accident victims, lost spirits wandering around shops and being generally pissed off. Some of the imagery of the departed is genuinely scary while others are cheap thrills that harken back to 1980's production values.

We're treading on the same ground as SIXTH SENSE here but the twists come when she tracks down the original donor of the corneas. This comes as almost a separate movie - for the first two thirds of the movie, we've been stuck on two sets - the Hong Kong hospital and her apartment - so the sudden flight to Thailand is a jarring change of scenery that doesn't quite flow.

There's also a romantic subplot between the blind woman and the most helpful doctor on the planet that is never realized but cheesy enough to even be mentioned. While most people bemoan that doctors don't make house calls, this one travels out of the country for you! Must be love...

Overall, THE EYE might offer Tom Cruise and his production company some raw material to fashion a slicker Hollywood scare, but THE EYE itself is a disappointing collage of unoriginal bits. It's worth a rental to see what will become of it in the Hollywood translation. And it's also interesting to see foreign films in general - when we see what scares people from other cultures, we get a better idea of what's common across all boundaries.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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