Sunday 4 November 2007

The Eye 2 (2004) Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang

This is completely not a sequel to the superb ghost story called The Eye, even though it's called The Eye 2, was released two years later by the same people: directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, the Pang Brothers, and writer Jo Jo Hui. It's presumably just a way to sell the film on the reputation of its predecessor, but that does seem a little strange given that it could just as easily have been sold on the names involved.

Shu Qi plays Joey Cheng, who looks great but who is actually pregnant, suicidal and going mad. She tries suicide by pills in a hotel room but fails, and in the process starts seeing bizarre ghosts. Given that the hotel bring in monks to stage a Buddhist ceremony to cleanse these ghosts, this can't be too surprising to an Eastern viewpoint. Of course things just get more bizarre from there and seem to be tied to a Buddhist belief that everyone is born with the ability to channel all incarnations of being but that ability fades with age, heightened only at the verge of death or giving birth. Given that Joey has just gone through both, it's not too surprising that she's seeing strange things.

She's split with her boyfriend and can't get in contact with him because he doesn't answer her calls. She sees a young woman throw herself under a moving train, but she doesn't seem to exist and eye witnesses believe that it was Joey that was about to jump. She gets attacked by a rapist but is saved by a ghost, though again eye witnesses swear that it was Joey who tore his face apart while screaming for him to keep away from her baby. The ghosts that appear get freakier: the ones in taxis are disturbing, the hospital elevator scene is weird and the scene at the bus stop is very freaky indeed.

It's fascinating to see a horror story worked around these concepts. These ghosts aren't evil, though they may seem it on occasion because of their freakiness. The applicable Buddhist belief is that a spirit awaiting reincarnation waits beside a pregnant woman until the time is right to move into the womb and be born again, at that moment forgetting all previous memory. What happens with Joey is that the ghosts, knowing that she's pregnant, are trying to stop her committing suicide and thus removing an opportunity for them to be reincarnated.

There's a human story wound up in this also that we learn about as the film progresses, but really the fascination is with the belief. We watch two people seeing exactly the same thing: one, a young pregnant woman experiencing it as a bizarre horror story; and the other, a Buddhist priest, knowing it as the inevitable and necessary cycle of reincarnation. The concept then becomes how we can come to terms with realities that we were either previously unaware of or have simply never thought about literally. Translate that to how we in the western world look at death and watch your eyes open. Superb!

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