Despite the numeral 10 in the title, this is only the second sequel to THE EYE; the title actually refers to ten methods for viewing the dead, one of which was seen in each previous film, leaving eight for this movie to explore. This interesting concept helps retroactively turn the first two EYES into more of a matched pair (THE EYE 2 actually had little in common with its predecessor), and it also provides a vivid jumping-off for more sight-seeing among the dead. Unfortunately, the promising premise soon grows weary and bloodshot with strain, and the film develops an even more obvious case of myopia than afflicted THE EYE 2. Directors Danny and Oxide Pang display occasional flashes of the brilliant vision that made the original EYE a sight not to be missed, but more often than not they seem blind to the serious emotional qualities that made the film something more than a silly spook show.
The minimal story has a group from Hong Kong on vacation in Thailand, where a friend reveals “The Ten Encounters.” Having heard of the first two (brief flashbacks imply they are familiar with the vents of EYE and EYE 2), the friends decided to try the other eight, in hope of seeing a ghost. During one encounter (a sort of hide and seek by night in the woods, with a cat used to reveal the ghost), one of the group disappears, apparently sucked into the spirit world. Two of his friends bail out on him, returning to Hong Kong, while another stays behind to search for him, and winds up disappearing herself. Eventually, the two friends in Hong Kong, haunted by ghosts and guilt, return to Thailand and use the Tenth Encounter (sleeping in funeral clothes) to enter the Land of the Dead and search for their missing comrades.
For the first act, the concept works as a means to string together a series of frightening set pieces; you actually believe the film is going to consist of eight sequences, one for each of the untried “Encounters.” Although the method lacks the dramatic aspirations of the first two pictures, it does lend itself to a bigger eyeful of spooky encounters. In particular, an exterior sequence at a crossroads, tapping chopsticks on bowls to summon hungry spirits, is a highlight, with dozens of the dead swarming around the frightened humans (who must continue tapping or risk becoming visible to the ghosts).
Once the plot kicks in, the film stumbles and falls as if struck blind. The cowardly departure of two friends is treated as a joke, but it’s a bad one. Later, one of the lead characters is briefly possessed, and his jerky contortions are misinterpreted by a break-dancer as a challenge, leading to a lengthy music-video interlude, set to rap music. The sequence is actually one of the most memorable in the film (the visual slapstick is laugh-out-loud funny), but it destroys any vestige of credibility, ensuring that no suspense can survive for the third act excursion into the other world. In any case, the quest in the land of the dead is played for even cruder laughs, including a mind-bogglingly stupid flatulence joke: The swarms of the dead are held at bay by the warm breath of the living; when the living run out of breath, they resort to expelling gas, which is rendered as a computer-generated smoke ring!
Whatever their relative merits, THE EYE and THE EYE 2 aspired to a certain maturity in the story-telling, in each case focusing on a young adult woman undergoing an emotional crisis brought on by unwanted encounters with the dead. THE EYE 10, conversely, is juvenile in concept and execution, focusing on a group of stupid kids who invite trouble upon themselves. Perhaps this was intended to distinguish the sequel from its predecessors, but the attempt backfires: THE EYE 10 ends up resembling dozens of other bad teen horror flicks, filled with non-entity victims. And the incongruous humor seems like a deliberately brutal jab at the viewer’s cornea, warning the audience not to look for the serious quality that distinguished the first film.
All in all, this is one EYE that should have stayed wide shut.
THE TEN ENCOUNTERS
As listed in the film, here are the “Ten Encounters” for viewing the dead:
- Seeing through the eyes of the dead (as in THE EYE)
- Attempting suicide while pregnant (as in THE EYE 2)
- Playing with a Spirit Glass (which spells out answers like a Ouija Board)
- Tapping chopsticks on a bowl at an intersection to summon hungry spirits
- Playing hide and seek at midnight (a ghost will “hide” one of the players, but a black cat will reveal the ghost)
- Rubbing one’s eyes with soil from a grave
- Opening an umbrella indoors
- Gazing into a mirror at midnight while brushing one’s hair
- Bending over to look upside down through one’s own legs
- Being laid out in clothing as if for one’s own funeral.
The DVD for THE EYE 10 features a good widescreen transfer with 5.1 surround sound, in the original language (Cantonese, Thai, etc), with English subtitles. Bonus features include a trailer and a making-of featurette. The featurette explains the reasoning behind the title (trying to do something other than the expected “Eye 3”). It also features the Pang brothers discussing their inspiration for the “Ten Encounters”: as in the featurettes for THE EYE and THE EYE 2, they claim to have based their ideas on real events, including a game of hide and seek in which a boy went missing for days but had only felt the experience of being gone for a few minutes (presumably because time is slower in the spirit world).
THE EYE 10 (“Gin Gwai 10,” a.k.a. “The Eye: Infinity,” 2005). Directed by Danny Pang and Oxide pang. Written by Mar Wu, from a story by Oxide pang and Danny Pang. Cast: Bo-lin Chen, Yu Gu, Bongkoj Khongmalai, Isabella Leong, Ray MacDonald, Kate Yeung.