The Eye is by far my favorite film of the horror genre and is directed by two of my favorite directors, the Pang Brothers. The Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide are twin brothers from Hong Kong, who while having separate careers, tend to do a lot of their work together. Their directing style has a very original and very interesting visual style that has been coined as “Pang-Vision” by several critics, fellow directors and actors. It is very obvious to the eye when watching a Pang Brothers film, as they have a true gift of conveying emotion through the lens of their camera. The Eye is a great example of their prowess behind the camera.
The Eye is about a woman named Wong Kar Mun regaining the eyesight that she lost in a car crash when she was young. Wong receives a cornea transplant from a donor patient and for the first time in over a decade she can see again. During this process she has to learn how to see all over again, because she doesn’t remember what anything looks like. To complicate things further, the woman that Wong received the corneas from could see the spirit world and now Wong can as well. However, since she no longer remembers what people look like she is unaware of the fact that some of the people that she is seeing are in fact dead. She also begins to see dark silhouettes in the shape of people who seem to be taking others away. Her circumstances combined with the directing prowess and visual style of Danny and Oxide make for some truly horrific and frightening sequences.
Unlike American horror films that by and large depend solely on gore, violence, and jump scares to terrify it’s audience the Pang Brothers do not. They have been quoted on several occasions saying that, “If you have to resort to blood and violence to get a reaction out of your audience, you are not doing your job right.” Don’t get me wrong the Pang Brothers do utilize violence and gore as well but not as often and mostly it is used as the climax of the piece or to drive a message home. Also, instead of using constant jump scares, where there is an intense scene with building music and tension only to have something jump out for a quick shock, they tend to show you exactly what it is you should be afraid of. This is a common practice in Asian horror films. It is slowly gaining ground in America, but I, for one, really appreciate and prefer this style of horror. Instead of catching brief glimpses of what should scare us as it leaps briefly into and then out of frame the camera focuses on it, every detail of it, as if you are in the sheer horror of the scene unable to look away. Even if the person in the scene is unaware that the scary creature is there, we are. Think about which is worse, seeing a car suddenly hit someone or watching for a while as you see the car deliberately aim for the person and are unable to do anything help them or even turn away.
There are certain scenes that lose something in the cultural translation. Because after all different cultures are frightened of different things. This is the primary reason that horror films are so different from country to country. One scene that loses something in translation is the scene in the restaurant with the ghost woman with the elongated tongue. The elongated, or demonic looking, tongue is a commonly used visual representation of horror in Asian cinema and evokes uneasy and dreadful feelings in their audiences. This is a cultural staple of Asian cinema that Americans do not usually get. However, this film does boast one of the most intense scenes in any horror film. The scene involves the main character being trapped in an elevator with a spirit, and it is a prime example of showing you what you should be afraid of versus jump scares. To this day this scene makes me clinch my fists and gets my heart racing.
The Eye has been remade into an American film staring Jessica Alba. However, I am not a fan of the remake. For me, it removes a lot of the visual tensions replacing them with more jump scares. The American remake has removed some of the characters and has lost a lot of the beautiful Buddhist views and messages to the film, which in turn steals some of the poetry.
So if you are up for a subtitled horror film or feel like experimenting with a less familiar style of horror, then this should be your first stop. The Eye.
Nicholas Bowlin is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado. Nick is perhaps best known for his movie review web series, The Movie Guru. He is currently working on another web series called Living Jokes