THE EYE by Hong Kongs Pang Brothers is a tidy little ghost story with more plusses than minuses going for it. The plot is a retelling about the unexpected things that can happen when you recycle body parts from dead people. In this case, its the corneas and the happy recipient is Mun, blind since the age of two and completely adrift in the land of the sighted. With no visual memory at all to draw on, everything looks weird whether its a stapler or the dearly not-so-departed that only she can see.
The more Mun is able to identify the phantoms as such, the more otherworldly they become, doing things like licking food at a restaurant with a ghastly blue tongue, or charging at her wildly only to dissipate into the barest wisp of smoke. And theres also something hinky going on with her room, it keeps changing into someone elses.
The Pangs do a fine job of creating an atmosphere of creeping tension as it sinks in for Mun and the audience just what is going on. They never resort to gore or cheap scare tactics. These phantoms, some of whom are less than clear on the whole not being alive anymore thing, behave pretty much like the living, though perhaps a bit more focused. Or should that be obsessed? Indeed, one of the scariest scenes in THE EYE involves Mun trapped on an elevator with a ghost that appears with his back to her and then, ever so slowly, glides over to her, toes not quite touching the floor, as Mun desperately watches the elevators ascent, each floors number lighting up in what seems like slow motion floor as they travel to fifteen.
For a piquant contrast, there is Muns adjustment to being sighted again, learning to write, being politely dropped from the blind orchestra she loves, and dealing with everyone, including her visual vocabulary coach, believing that shes going nuts. The Pangs add quirky, unexpected details, such as showing Muns family burning her old report cards so that she cant see the middling to bad grades on them.
Anjelica Lee as Mun delivers a superb performance with a richly expressive face that conveys Muns journey from delight to despair as the gift of sight turns from miracle to Trojan Horse. It compensates for the, youll pardon the expression, dead spots on the film. The eerie doings repeat at times when they should be getting weirder and the script meanders elsewhere a few times instead of focusing on the throughput of the story and building up a creepy momentum to the big finish. What is possibly the worst musical scoring Ive heard this year does nothing to mitigate the problem.
All in all, though, THE EYE is an intelligent film that doesnt fail to make the salient point that it is the evil men (and women) that do that lives after them. Ghosts dont have to be ectoplasm to haunt us.