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The Eye
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   The Pang Brothers
Genre:   Horror
Released:   June 2003
Review Date:   June 23, 2003
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)
I love watching imports in the theater. You can go see them blind, without reading a review or even watching a trailer. If a movie has done well enough in its country of origin to receive a stateside release, you can walk up and buy your ticket with (relatively) little fear that you'll be wasting your time and money. Which brings us to The Eye, a supernatural thriller from Hong Kong.

In The Eye, Mun, a blind woman, gets a cornea transplant to allow her to see, and, well, since this is a horror movie, I'll bet you can guess what happens next.

Probably the most impressive element of The Eye is its masterful use of music and sound effects to create scares. From the moment the movie starts, you will be drenched by sound, caressed by sound, stabbed by sound, and, if you have a pulse, there will be a scene or two where the hairs on your arm literally stand on end. The Pang brothers (who directed The Eye) lay it on thick and viscous, almost to the point of cheese, but the thing of it is, it works perfectly.

As Mun slowly begins to comprehend that she is trapped in an everyday nightmare no one else can sense or comprehend, we feel trapped with her. Mun sees the world with new eyes, and she doesn't like what she sees. The film builds its sense of the unbearable and inescapable not only from supernatural sequences, but also in more human moments, as when Mun's desperate violin playing is intercut with a spiritual cleansing ritual. Mun finds herself even more isolated from the comfortable world she once knew when she is denied the right to perform in an orchestra for the blind because she is now sighted. Devastated by her rebirth, she attempts to retreat, to cocoon herself, to become, as much as she can, blind once more.

While The Eye has some of the most perfectly crafted scare moments I've ever seen, it does, unfortunately, lose a lot of steam (and suspense) as it enters the third act. Ostensibly the big revelatory pay-off, it turns out to be a little too familiar to pack much of a punch. Once again (SPOILERS, PEOPLE. SPOILERS) the dead are using the living to work out their "issues". Of course, that's what most ghosts are. If they had survived their particular trauma, they'd have needed a psychiatrist. But they didn't, and there's no one around to tell them that "they've got their whole death ahead of them." But of course they can't come right out and say what they want. No, instead, they act out. Passive-aggressive much?. Ghost stories would be a lot shorter if the dead would just work a little harder on their communication skills than on levitating objects and secreting ectoplasm. All of this is not to say that I don't dig ghost stories. I do. But while some movies leak the back-story of a ghost bit by bit, building and deepening the mystery, the third act of The Eye is more like a big exposition dump.

Not that any of this ruins the movie. But since there have been several recent films with the same themes and devices, The Eye isn't quite as surprising and satisfying as it could be. Even so, it's more than worth catching, especially in THX. The Eye is already playing in coastal states like California, Washington, Massachusetts and New York, and it should also be open over the course of the next month in Texas, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, and all other states beginning with the letter 'M'. Palm Pictures' The Eye website has a theater listing, but it's not very comprehensive (it doesn't have, for example, the theater where I watched The Eye), so even if you're not on the list, keep checking your fave art house movie theater to see if The Eye shows up.
RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers' safety tip for the day: Never pick a fight with a blind person. The red tip on the end of those canes isn't paint. It's dried blood.

 
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