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The Eye (Jian gui)

Writ. The Pang Brothers, Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui
Dir. The Pang Brothers
Str. Angelica Lee, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon
Opens June 13th

The World Is Way Less Scary When You Don't Have To Look At It

Over the last few years, horror films have been going through an interesting evolution. First there was the suspense of Hitchcock and the kitsch of Vincent Price, way back in the times of dinosaurs. Then in the seventies we had the genesis of a new form of terror; Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street all came and defined the ways an entire generation of zit-laden, metal-mouthed Americans would spend their money. As the eighties waned, however, so did horror. It tried to stand tough through out the nineties, but the gaping wounds of terrible writing, predictable plots and horrific acting had already festered, turned gangrenous, died, been resurrected, hunted for brains, and been burned alive; there was nothing left for the horror of the 80's.

Free Williamsburg
Film Archive


Capturing the Friedmans
The Eye
28 Days Later
Cowboy Bebop

Washington Heights
Better Luck Tomorrow
View From the Top

Laurel Canyon

Ordinary Sinner
Dark Blue
The Quiet American


Hell House
Good Housekeeping
Roger Dodger
Spirited Away
Punch-Drunk Love
Bowling For Columbine
Scarlet Diva
Full Frontal
Sex and Lucia
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Human Nature
Shot in the Heart
Jim Brown: All American
Stolen Summer
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

After Freddy and Jason had their last, bloody solo acts, there was an empty pit in cinema. Thanks almost entirely to Kevin Williamson the genre was resurrected in 1996 and Scream became the new horror. I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legends, and so on quickly followed suit and we had a full fledged industry at work. Of course slowly over the subsequent years horror was once again distilled in some places, diluted in others, washed out and re-constituted so many times that by the year 2000 Scary Movie ended up being more terrifying than Scream 3. The third age of horror didn't last quite as long and its remains are decaying much faster; no one is going to be renting Urban Legends: Final Cut in four years for the kitsch value (Where as Nightmare on Elm St 3 is still a classic… be sure to watch for a Laurence Fishburg so young he billed himself as 'Larry'). But this is the natural progression of any pop-genre, it's all doomed to fade away and become trite and ridiculous.

And then The Sixth Sense came strolling on by, scared the crap out of the millions, and resurrected horror for its fourth incarnation. The Ring followed suit last year to a fairly resounding success, and that's where we are now. So far, it's been going fairly well. No one has tried to make a Sixth Sense II: The SEVENTH Sense, and there is no singular mind around which the genre rotates; I mean, once Kevin Williamson started working on Dawson's Creek you knew his time was pretty much up.

And that's where The Eye comes into play. A huge box office success in China, The Eye is being carted over to America later this month with the hopes that it will keep the dream alive. And for what it's worth, it will probably succeed.

One of the nice things about this current incarnation of horror is that, like the earliest horror movies way back when, they aren't specifically marketed for kids. Sure, kids will probably love it - assuming they can get around the subtitles - but adults will find plenty of smart psychology at work.

The Eye is at once better than The Ring, and also far inferior to it. The Ring had a truly terrifying premise, which worked on a slightly Meta level and really stuck with you for weeks after. The Eye on the other hand, isn't as tricky, and doesn't try to pull you into the movie; it's more honest, in some ways, but also not as clever. While both movies employ very similar tactics of fright, The Eye is somewhat subtler, more believable in how it frightens you.

Also, The Eye works outside of its scary moments. Some of the best scenes in The Eye have nothing to do with the horror side of the movie, but rather with the premise. Mun (Lee) had been blind since the age of two, but has undergone a risky eye surgery and now must learn to use her eyes all over again. The scenes as she learns to flex these muscles that we take for granted, as she learns to discern one object from another, and tries to write and so on, are touching and very well done; its almost as if the Pang Brothers could have made a perfectly nice movie about a woman learning to see, without any horror, and done just fine with it.

The Ratings:

One Centaur

The Eye really feels like a cross breeding of The Sixth Sense and The Ring; almost to a fault; while it's just as well executed as either of its predecessors, The Pang Brothers could have tried a little harder in the imagination department. The whole movie smacks of unoriginality, which is primarily it's only flaw.

Three Funky, Incomprehensible Foreign Language Characters

I like the fact that the movie is in Chinese, with English subtitles. It makes everything feel a little more surreal. If this had been re-done with an American cast and an American city, it wouldn't have worked nearly as well.

Two-and-a-half Hipsters, a little shaken

This is pretty much your run-of the mill modern horror movie. It's definitely creepy, and flat out terrifying in some parts. The end falls pretty flat, but it makes way more sense than Garmento, for what that's worth. If you're in the mood to be scared this will almost definitely do the trick.



--B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | June 2003 | Issue 39
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