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The Eye
|     review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |     also see      |
Chinese: 見鬼
The Eye has it: Angelica Lee
Year: 2002
Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat
Producer: Peter Chan Ho-Sun, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui
Cast: Angelica Lee Sum-Kit, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Chutcha Rujinanon, Pierre Png, Edmund Chen, Candy Lo Hau-Yam
The Skinny: Disciplined, artful direction and a fine central performance from Angelica Lee make The Eye a standout amongst the Hong Kong horror boom.
by Kozo:

Last spring, the Hong Kong box office got a minor boost thanks to The Eye, a cerebral chiller from The Pang Brothers. Angelica Lee (aka: Sinjie) stars as Mun, a twenty-something HK resident who's been blind since youth. She becomes the recipient of a cornea transplant, which will finally give her sight and presumably a new lease on life. However, Mun needs to adjust to her new eyes so she's sent to handsome psychotherapist Wah (Lawrence Chou) for some expert counseling. It seems her body may know how the world works, but her vision can't connect the dots. The physical appearance of others surprises her, and she becomes alienated from her still-blind friends. And there's an even bigger problem. Yep, Mun sees dead people.

The underlying story and set-up for The Eye don't truly break new ground. Transplanted body parts have a long history in the horror genre of screwing with their new owners, and the "seeing ghosts" thing is becoming dangerously overused. For a horror film to be good, it's the telling that matters and not the actual story. If one were to concentrate on the story, they could find issue with the generic plot, convenient characters, and unnecessary existential lip service. Even more, the usual doctor-patient romance hits new heights of convenience thanks to Wah's quick admission of his love for Mun. It helps that Mun is played by Angelica Lee, but his affection still develops incredibly quickly.

Thankfully, the Pang Brothers find other ways to make their story as involving as possible. The cinematography and music are extremely effective and appropriate, and some of the images the filmmakers create are truly haunting. Even more, they take extra steps to put the viewer into Mun's head, sharing her growing fear with the audience. Nothing that occurs in the film is really a surprise, but the quiet dread with which its presented is genuinely creepy, and the suspense can be unrelenting. Though danger never seems to be an issue, one can't help feel frightened by what Mun experiences because it's what's imagined and not what's actually seen that proves most terrifying.

Aiding this is Mun's character, which feels extremely real despite having little actual backstory. Mun isn't presented as someone who has extreme neuroses, or is in possesson of a debilitating past. All of Mun's issues arise from what's actually happening onscreen, and that makes the audience's identification with her extremely acute. Angelica Lee does a fine job of bringing Mun's understandable fear, fragility and even strength to the screen. As with her performance in Princess D, Lee displays a charisma that doesn't rely on cuteness or histrionics to hold the screen. Her ability to charm and affect is seemingly effortless.

Where The Eye really surprises is in its climax, which subverts the film's narrative drive to haunting effect. What happens shouldn't be disclosed, but it's neither gratuitous or contrived, nor is it even upsetting. What the Pang Brothers do feels merely appropriate, and the result is a film which doesn't do too much or too little in the service of its genre. The Eye is probably the most effectively told horror film out of Hong Kong in a long while. (Kozo 2002)

Notes: The Eye has been picked up for US remake, ala Japan's The Ring.  

22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Winner - Best Actress (Angelica Lee Sum-Kit)

Nomination - Best Editing (Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang Fat)
Nomination - Best Sound Effects (The Sansab Team)
Nomination - Best Visual Effects (Centro Digital Pictures)

39th Annual Golden Horse Awards
Winner - Best Actress (Angelica Lee Sum-Kit)
• Winner - Best Visual Effects (Centro Digital Pictures)
Nomination - Best Sound Effects (The Sansab Team)
9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Recommended Film

8th Annual Golden Bauhinia Awards
Winner - Best Actress (Angelica Lee Sum-Kit)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Also see:

The Eye 2 (2004)
The Eye 10 (2005)

image courtesy of Panorama Distributions Co., Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen