Despite being a kdrama, anime, and Asian horror fiend, it is with deep shame that I admit that I overlooked this one – often semi-deliberately because the poor reception of the Jessica Alba remake put me off, despite it being a fucking remake.
Anyway, Hong Kong chiller The Eye, directed by the Pang brothers (who also broke into Thai cinema with Bangkok Dangerous) stars Angelica Lee as Mun, a young violinist who has been blind since the age of 2 (though it’s never specified why). She undergoes corneal transplant surgery to try to recover her sight and it seems like her recovery is successful. But over the coming days she starts to see shadowy figures and people who don’t seem visible by others, and she starts to suspect something sinister abounds…
I’m sure that medical recovery as a subgenre has been done prior to 2002, but I’ve not delved into it that deeply, so it felt relatively fresh to me. And since we’re with Mun on her journey throughout, everything is seen literally through her lens: inky-black decor floods a nighttime bedroom scene like a dilated pupil; faint apparitions flicker into appearance like blinking eyelids; flashbacks and visions jump-scare everyone like too much light flooding into your eyeballs. It’s immersive, making the atmosphere all the more visceral for it.
Aside from Mun, nobody else’s character is fully fleshed out, save for a small scene with her therapist, Dr Wah (Lawrence Chou). But her bonds are depicted believably enough for someone who seems isolated up to now due to her condition and is now further isolated by the side-effects of curing said condition. How awful must it feel to be blind, have your sight cured, but then nobody believes what you say you’re seeing – so much that you start to doubt what’s in front of your own eyes? I wish they’d played on that more as the pacing felt like a series of vignettes, but I still found this by turns eerie, devastating, and moving – especially with young cancer patient Ying Ying(So Yat-lai)’s bittersweet philosophy that ‘the world is beautiful’.
With its grainy, shaky static, angled flash-cuts and Raimi-style zooms, this very much feels like a turn-of-the-millennium film. This was always going to date it, but I didn’t feel it took away from the scares, which were plentiful. Thanks to this film, I’m keeping my head down at restaurants, not talking to strange children, and never getting into a fucking lift again.