*Originally posted in March at my LJ*
So. I’ve been slacking a little, as far as The Great Horror Movie Resolution is concerned. I’m supposed to be watching the “important” films, that is: a) the classics, i.e, The Amityville Horror, b) the indie, cult flicks, i.e., May, or c) the films that everyone and their damn dog has seen but me i.e., Hostel. It’s supposed to be about education, you know?
The thing is, I just love bad horror so much that sometimes the choice between watching something like The Amityville Horror versus snarking at something awesome, like, oh, I don’t know, Jason X is a hard one for me. Nevertheless, on the list of the 100 Best Horror Movies for the Discerning Horror Freak (found here: http://www.best-horror-movies.com/100-top-horror-movies-2009.html), I’ve only seen 52 of them. So, clearly, I need to get cracking.
This week’s viewing is Number 22 on the list, The Eye. Not that Jessica Alba remake but the original from Hong Kong.
And I gotta say, despite the fact that it wasn’t shlocky, bloody nonsense . . . I really enjoyed it.
Disclaimer: Spoilers for The Eye are only at the end of this review, and they are clearly marked, so you will not stumble upon them accidentally (unless you are excessively not paying attention.) The only spoilers you’ll get right here are for Steel Magnolias. That’s right. The horror addict likes chick flicks from the 80’s! What? I admit it! I feel no shame in this! Ouiser rocks!
In movies, organ transplants never go smoothly. You either reject the kidney (Steel Magnolias), get the heart of your future lover’s dead wife (Return to Me), can’t keep up on the payments and get your organs repossessed (Repo Men), or can’t keep up on the payments and get your organs repossessed by a guy who sings all the time (Repo: The Genetic Opera). Point is, organ transplants usually don’t turn out all that well. This is particularly true in The Eye when Mun, who has been blind since childhood, gets new corneas and winds up seeing dead people.
The Eye’s got a lot going for it, namely uber creepiness. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, to build tension without resorting to pop out scares. (Not that I’m knocking pop out scares—I liked Jason X remember? I love gore shlockfests.) But there’s something about ghost stories, man. If you’re going to do ‘em right, they almost have to be . . . elegant. I mean, gross out ghost stories are fun in their own right (13 Ghosts, anyone? Love me some carpet-chewing Matthew Lilliard) but aren’t the best ones sort of melancholy and languid? Isn’t a ghost story meant to haunt you, not shock you?
Well, who knows. Anyway, The Eye is clearly meant to haunt you, and the Pang Brothers do a terrific job of building tension without boring the audience to tears. The creepiest ghosts in the film aren’t the blood-drenched, gibbering souls that start shrieking at you. They’re the ones facing the corner of an elevator, ever so slowly turning around. They’re the blurry shades at the end of the corridor, unhesitatingly coming at you. This movie may not jump out and scare you, but it will definitely get you. The Eye has got atmosphere in fuckin spades. It’s creepy just like a ghost story should be.
The only semi-serious problem I had with the movie was the need to encapsulate it with bookends. You know, when the movie begins with a three line voice over and ends with a same or similar three line voice over. Never mind the fact that there are no voice overs anywhere in the rest of the movie. It’s like wrapping your film with a big red bow and saying, “Here is the point of my story!” There are probably films that do it well . . . although none are really springing to mind at the moment . . . but mostly, they’re pretty lazy attempts to broadcast whatever your protagonist has learned.
Still, this is hardly a major offense, and like I said before, The Eye has got a lot going for it. Horror movies with actors who can . . . gasp . . . act . . . well, it’s sort of a strange experience, but you learn to go with it. (I kid. 28 Days Later, man. Those are some people who can fucking act. On a side note, you think this is like my fifteenth name drop of a random movie? I can’t help it. That’s how my brain functions.) Angelica Lee, who plays our heroine, Mun, seems strong enough to handle the role. I wonder if the same could be said for Jessica Alba in the remake . . . I kind of doubt it, but hey, I haven’t seen it. (More talk on that past the Spoiler Line.)
The plot of The Eye is right out of urban legends, which is always a cool place for horror films. How much of you is your body? With different organs, are you still you . . . or are you a composite? There are interesting themes with identity here, as well as with that pesky free will and predestination stuff (again, more on that past the Spoiler Line.) Ultimately, I enjoyed this one a lot. The Eye is lovely, creepy, and sad, and really, what else can you ask from a good ghost story?
Now, if you don’t care to read the spoilers, I’d stop looking about here, because these are BIG TIME spoilers, like I will tell you exactly what happens, so don’t whine to me later, please.
Okay. Here’s what I wanted to add: I think this movie has some balls. So, here’s how this film goes: Mun tracks down the woman who donated her corneas. The donor, Ling, could see the souls of people who were dead or about to die. She was shunned because of this ability, and therefore nobody believed her when she tried to warn them about the big fire about to kill everyone. (Personally, I think I might listen, if the chick who sees dead things was trying to give me a message, but that’s why I’m not in these films. Because I’m not a moron.) Anyway, a shitload of people die, and Ling kills herself in grief. After Mun eventually rescues Ling’s soul, she’s in a similar situation. This is a pretty cool scene, actually. Mun is sitting on the bus, and she starts seeing death shades coming to collect souls. There’s like a fucking ARMY of them. When Mun runs off the bus and tries to start warning people, nobody will take the time to listen to her, figuring she’s crazy or drunk or something and then . . . a shitload of people die.
Now, I haven’t seen the remake yet, and I don’t know if they follow the story to the letter or just the concept (ala Dawn of the Dead) but this is my (possibly wrong) guess: in an American remake of this film, history would not repeat itself. Mun would learn from what happened to Ling, and she would be able to avert the tragedy this time. Because that’s what you want in stories, people to be able to save the world. You don’t want everything you lost, everything you went through, to be all for nothing. But while The Eye never feels the need to actually debate free will versus predestination, this “gift” of seeing death never actually saves anyone. The Cute Chemo Kid dies; the villagers die; the people on the freeway die. And it all just smacks of fate and inevitability. Death is going to happen. You can do nothing to stop it.
Which, yeah, isn’t exactly the most uplifting of messages, but I find it kind of interesting, anyway. There’s just something so very tragic about The Eye. So if I’m wrong, and the American remake does let history repeat itself, drop me a line and let me know. I would be very surprised. Jessica Alba can save the world, right?
God, I miss Dark Angel. You know, back when I enjoyed Jessica Alba. Back before Fantastic Four and Good Luck Chuck. Oh well.
In a last, mostly unrelated note, I think I’d like to do an original/remake night sometime, preferably with movies I’ve never seen before, like The Amityville Horror or maybe The Crazies, when the remake comes out on DVD, that is. Anyone got any suggestions? I’d like to hear them.
In conclusion, the moral of The Eye:
Seeing dead people . . . it fucking SUCKS.