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The Eye 2 (2004)
Directors: Pang brothers

review by Christopher Geary

Struggling to emerge intact from a broken relationship with a married man, the beautiful Joey (Taiwanese starlet Shu Qi, from action movies The Transporter, Corey Yuen's enjoyable-tosh So Close, and Ann Hui's underrated Visible Secret) attempts to kill herself with an overdose, but survives thanks to attentive hotel room service, and gets a rude awakening via stomach pump. After being told that a Buddhist ceremony was required to exorcise ghosts from her suite, the expectant Joey starts seeing mutable spectres everywhere. These are the spirits of suicide 'victims' and they seem to have a plan for Joey and her unborn child...

The commonest mistake of sequel productions is when they give us exactly the same plotline as the original film. Although it's evidently true that cinema audiences, and TV viewers alike, frequently demand 'more please!' from the creators of visual entertainment, it's particularly important that the makers of genre product strive to add something new to the formula, in order to deliver at least a few new elements. The Eye 2 (aka: Jian gui 2) takes a wholly different approach to the narrative concerns of its spooky material than its predecessor and, in many ways, it's a sequel in title only because this is less of a mystery thriller and more of a blatantly-supernatural drama than was The Eye.

POLICEMAN: "No one will challenge a mentally unstable pregnant woman protecting herself."

This isn't simply a ghost story, though. It's one of a select group of scary cinema classics (such as Rosemary's Baby and The Seventh Sign) best described as 'maternity nightmares'. They are not occult dramas about evil children (like The Omen) as they're primarily concerned with fears of pregnancy. In these dark fantasy worlds, the mother-to-be sees weird things or is stricken with dreadful feelings because of her condition. Whether she's stuck in a hospital lift with another patient who's actually giving birth, meeting a tearful widow at the antenatal clinic, or waiting in a cafe for her ex-boyfriend to leave work, the haunted Joey is confronted with several ghosts that hide in plain sight. They float in midair, lurk under tables, or stare back at her from mirrors and pools of water. Their faces may be twisted blurs and their forms are often vague, rendered in smoky hues by astonishingly subtle digital effects. However, the directors (Danny and Oxide Pang) achieve some of the best shocks with CGI-enhanced makeup, such as the falling 'bodies' that land on concrete with sickening thuds, and much spilling of blood from their unforgiving impacts with hard reality. Rarely has that ghastly aspect of 'suicide' been so well, or unflinchingly, presented in screen fiction.

The astute casting of Philip Kwok (Hardboiled), bringing gravitas aplenty to his role as the wise monk, ensures that principal expository scenes maintain the film's suspense instead of dispelling all edginess with the comfort of insider knowledge, and there's at least one startling plot twist delivering an uncanny surprise that would make Shyamalan envious. At times, the smothering atmosphere is so powerful and unbearable you just have to laugh (happily the filmmakers know when to release the pressure) to relieve the building tensions. Surely that's the acid test of any quality creep fest?

Make no mistake, all you horror fans; The Eye 2 is a dazzling thriller - about death and rebirth, and much else besides - with a difference!
The Eye 2

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