Hong Kong horror is a sub-genre that was somewhat overshadowed by the J-Horror boom that began at the turn of the century. However, with this clever variation on the theme of the ghost-seer the Pang Brothers showed that HK is not to be ignored.
The film is based on an urban legend - a woman with corneal grafts who begins to see strange ghosts. This kind of 'transplant ghost story' is nothing new. But what The Eye does is spin the idea into everything the horror fan might want - jump scares, strange dreams, diverse and disturbing ghosts, and even a happy ending. Of sorts.
Mun (played by Malaysian Chinese actor Lee Sin-je) is a young woman who has been blind since she was two. After corneas become available she undergoes surgery, and is put in the care of psychologist Wah (Laurence Chou). When Mun starts to see odd things Wah draws the conclusion that her mind is struggling to make sense of new sensations. But Mun, and the audience, know better. She is simply seeing more than most people. Gradually she comes to realise that she is seeing the world as it truly is - that HK is a city of the dead.
It could be argued that movie pivots on two great moments - the hungry ghosts, and the man in the elevator. While these are superb, they would not be so effective if the groundwork had not been laid by showing us Mun's blurry impressions of events in her hospital, and her encounter with the little boy outside her grandmother's apartment. It's also very restrained in its use of psychic palaver, perhaps because so much ghostly lore here derives from traditional Taoist beliefs.
Like The Orphanage, The Eye a film about the sadness of ghosts and the wrongs people do, and the possibility of reconciliation. It delivers its scares in a good cause, and while it may seem slick and conventional in some respects it also has great confidence and energy. Its message of compassion and understanding is clear in any language.