The Silent Eye

The Eye

The 2002 Chinese horror film The Eye is unfortunately familiar — “unfortunately” because the writing-directing Pang brothers are expert at creating scenes of skin-chilling creepiness but, in this film at least, don’t give the audience anything more.

Mun (Angelica Lee) has been blind since childhood and gets eye transplants. She starts seeing the dead. Basically, if you’ve watched any combination of The Ring (either the original or its American re-make), The Sixth Sense, and The Mothman Prophecies, you’ve seen just about everything The Eye has to offer. It’s a ghost tale with a too-complicated back story, with the protagonist given clues to a tragedy that she might be able to stop or mitigate.

I hope the Pang brothers continue to make horror movies, because there are certain things they do very, very well. Rather than have things jump at the audience or the protagonist, the scary thinks lurk. There’s an exquisite scene in an elevator in which a spirit floats ever closer to Mun. What would be its toenails hover just above the floor, and I can’t imagine what could be worse than being trapped in an elevator with a ghost. (Well, the living person is trapped; the ghost isn’t.)

But it’s disheartening to find horror movies made by intelligent people that have such low aims. The Eye is meant to scare you, and it has no resonance beyond that. Chills are great, but for a movie to last — to be effective viewing after viewing — it needs to bring more. The best horror films — my favorites include Rosemary’s Baby, Kubrick’s The Shining, Ginger Snaps (think An American Werewolf in London done with wit and intelligence, with a pair of goth sisters as protagonists), and Guillermo del Toro’s fabulous The Devil’s Backbone — have something to say, addressing important, universal issues. (Because few of us have run into malevolent ghosts, these points of connection are essential.) The Eye is sadly silent.

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