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Pregnant Joey (Shu Qi) teeters on the brink of madness after several fruitless suicide attempts. She's the unwilling recipient of an influx of shadowy images that haunt her pervasively. In an attempt to quell this disturbing phenomenon, she looks up with her secretive ex-lover Sam (Tik Jesadaporn Pholdee), who may be able to shed some light upon the mysterious twilight world descending upon Joey. Written by
The Pang Brothers return with a very bizarre sequel to "The Eye". Bizarre, not only due to The Eye 2 not following on from the original film in any way, but also due to the fact that this film almost represents a change of genre. The Eye 2 is more of a supernatural thriller than a typical horror film; the tension arises from mysterious events rather than carnage or bloodshed. The result is an unusual and disturbing entry into one of the best Asian horror franchises.
The Eye 2 introduces us to a new heroine, Joey, who indulges in a shopping spree before swallowing a bottle of pills in a very weak suicide attempt (she asks hotel staff to check in on her before doing the deed). Joey is revived in hospital but her near death experience gives her the ability to see spirits. This new gift only becomes stronger when Joey discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant. There should be something exploitative about a horror movie that chooses a suicidal, pregnant woman as its subject matter. And to a certain extent, there is a mean spirited edge to The Eye 2. However, this scenario also allows the Pang Brothers to create an intensely disturbing atmosphere and display much of the visual virtuosity that has found them an international following.
The film's sense of tension builds rapidly after a slow first half. Joey begins to see more dead people and after consulting with Buddhists, comes to believe that a spirit is intent on possessing her unborn child. The Pang Brothers explore this set up with a number of memorably set pieces. The image of the falling corpses in the bus-stop scene lingers, the ghost under the table at the restaurant is unnerving and the creepy, womb raiding ghosts would turn anyone off having children.
The Pang Brothers are such masters at creating tension and suspense through their eerie visuals and excellent use of sound that you almost forget that this is all window dressing for a paper thin plot. For example, one of the film's major failings is that Joey's suicidal behaviour is never explained. This makes Joey's incredibly self-destructive behaviour difficult to gage. It's hard to tell if Joey is suicidal or completely psychotic. The reasoning behind this may well have been that Joey's ambiguous mental state increases the sense of hysteria. And to a certain extent it does, but it also makes it difficult to connect with Joey and her plight. The re-incarnation sub-plot is also barely explained and Joey's relationship with her ex-boyfriend remains a mystery.
The film's flaws are more than compensated for by the impressive visual effects, creepy atmosphere and brutality. The Pang Brothers' unique sense of visual style, which could best be described as film noir on hallucinogenic drugs, remains intact. In many ways, this is the only real connection with the first film. The Eye 2 is more derivative than its predecessor. For example, imagery such as the floating ghosts, owe a debt to Japanese horror. However, there is more than enough originality on display here to demonstrate the huge potential of these filmmakers. The visual effects are polished and the Pang Brothers' direction is as hyper as ever.
The film also displays a mean streak that differentiates it from many other movies of its genre. Joey, played with great skill by Taiwanese star Qi Shu, is not your typical scream queen; she's not represented as a fighter or survivor but the victim of circumstance. Joey attempts to commit suicide, is rejected by her boyfriend, finds out she's unexpectedly pregnant, almost raped, asks for an abortion, tries to kill herself at home and then twice more for good measure, in an extended and admirably tasteless scene, in hospital. The imagery may be surreal but the canvas on which it is placed is relentlessly grim and gritty.
The Eye 2 is suspenseful and wonderfully atmospheric but there is little depth to the proceedings. However, this is unlikely to turn off too many genre fans. My only reservation is that the Pang Brothers are clearly capable of more.
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