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The Third Eye

(from left to right) Race Wong, Wong Yau-Nam, Derek Tsang, and Joman Chiang.
Chinese: 小心眼  
Year: 2006  
Director: Carol Lai Miu-Suet
  Producer: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung

Race Wong Yuen-Ling, Wong Yau-Nam, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Liu Kai-Chi, Otto Wong Chi-On, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Samuel Pang King-Chi, Farini Chang, Joman Chiang Cho-Man, Fu Yuet-Mai, Sze Mei-Yee, Sarika Choy

The Skinny: An interesting premise and decent performances keep this unheralded slasher/thriller afloat, but a protracted and even senseless ending spoils matters. Better than one might expect - though that measure is, as always, quite relative.
by Kozo:

Premiering at the 30th Hong Kong International Film Festival, but taking over a full year to finally make it to home video, The Third Eye has been all but forgotten in the meantime. One might think that an Andrew Lau-produced, HD Video-shot suspense thriller starring Race Wong and Wong Yau-Nam would at least get some buzz, but so far nada. Honestly, has anyone out there ever said two words about The Third Eye after its fest premiere? If they did, then yay for them, because The Third Eye deserves some attention — though not that much, as it's really little more than a competently shot and conceived slasher/thriller that uses its limited resources well. The film ultimately goes nowhere, but it possesses interesting visuals and some effective performances, and the amount of blood spilled is rare for a Hong Kong film nowadays. We're looking hard for positives over here.

Wong Yau-Nam is Leung, a slacker voyeur who shows up at a rural motel located in Tai O on Lantau Island. He got there by following a comely flight attendant named Amy (Sarika Choy), and once he checks in, he goes about rigging the motel with hidden cameras in order to spy on the hotel inhabitants, as well as broadcast their hopefully sordid exploits on the Internet. Despite his less-than-noble intentions, he gets drawn into the lives of his neighbors, who possess differing secrets and degrees of sin. Writer Gum (Derek Tsang) is working on a disturbingly bloody novel, and it's curiously set in a rural motel with characters quite similar to the people around him. Gum has a thing for Fa (Joman Chiang), a depressed young girl who spends all her time taking care of her invalid father, who gravely talks about how he'd be better off dead. Fa sometimes receives drugs from Lik (Samuel Pang), a dealer who lives in the motel and grows his own inventory in his room. Lik also deals to Zheng (Tony Ho), a barrister who visits once a week to sleep with his longtime mistress, Susan (Farini Cheung).

Running the motel is the pretty Ka Kei (Race Wong), who lost both her parents at a young age and has a boyfriend named Wai (Otto Wong of EO2), who urges her to leave Lantau and emigrate to Australia. Leung strikes up a friendship with Ka Kei, but is warned off by her uncle (Liu Kai-Chi), a local cop whose manner is overprotective and curiously menacing. Regardless, Leung stays on, but things start to go very bad — though at first, they actually seem to be getting better. Fa and Gum start to act on their romantic feelings, and Leung and Ka Kei seem to get closer. too. However, while in a drug-induced stupor, Leung dreams that Fa murders Amy, and Gum always seems to think that someone is watching them - besides Leung, that is. There is another voyeur or maybe even two watching the inhabitants of the motel, and people even start to disappear. The situations and relationships eventually come to a head, and when the answers are spilled, so are copious amounts of blood. Who's watching everyone, and are their reasons for doing so sound or senseless?

The Third Eye sets up its characters and the mystery rather effectively, the highlight being a surreal drug-induced montage midway through the film where everyone trips out on Lik's homegrown goods. There's some interest in simply trying to figure out who's offing who in the motel; the film sets up clues that make the proceedings involving for those who are actually paying attention. The motel, with its green-painted walls and claustrophobic spaces, makes for a fine location, and the actors are okay. Wong Yau-Nam is effective at creating amoral, though interesting protagonists and Race Wong is able to project vulnerability or even danger through minute facial expressions. Liu Kai-Chi is always worth watching, especially when he's allowed to go over the top— which he eventually does. The big reveals in The Third Eye are welcome because they answer all the film's nagging questions, some of which go unanswered from the first minute of the film. When everything gets explained, at least it all makes sense, with some details neatly falling into pre-planned place. Director Carol Lai has a good handle on technique, which she also demonstrates in her later horror effort Naraka 19, and she's good with visuals too. There are a couple of problems with the HD Video image, such as the expected video noise during low-light scenes, but considering the obvious low budget, this is a good effort.

However, when everything finally ends in The Third Eye, a possible response could be: "So?" Audience identification is tough here, as the characters are not terribly sympathetic, and when the big explanation comes down, it's mostly a connect-the-dots exercise, with some new information thrown out that fills in all the gaps. The explanations don't really resonate with the characters, however, and the film fails at connecting their issues to the film's overarching theme. The film's Chinese title translates as "Be careful of the eye," which possesses a double meaning. One, it references the many instances of voyeurism, which occur via binoculars, hidden cameras, or just peepholes. The second meaning is richer, referencing the omnipresent "eye in the sky", who watches over everyone to see if they've been good little boys and girls. That meaning gets mentioned in the film, but it doesn't really add much to what came before, plus it's delivered during a protracted, goes-on-forever ending that goes from interesting to simply interminable. At a certain point, the film slows to a crawl to indicate that there was more thought behind this film than your standard horror exercise. However, it's questionable if the filmmakers truly accomplished all they seem to imply they did. The Third Eye is a decent, but not entirely successful effort, and it doesn't end in a way that convinces of its self-supposed meaning. But for a while, it's better than its reputation — or lack of one — would indicate. (Kozo 2007)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various extras

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen