This follow-up to THE EYE provides another glimpse into the land of the dead. Fans may enjoy the “second sight,” but this EYE lacks the compelling vision of its predecessor. Less a sequel than a variation on the theme, the story has nothing to do with the original except for the basic concept of a young woman who sees dead people. The attempt to create something new, instead of rehasing the original, is laudable, but the effort is undermined by weak plotting and a somewhat unsympathetic protagonist, who never engages our interest as well as Mun (Angelica Lee) did in the previous film. The directing duo of the Pang Brothers offer compensation in the form of some more memorably spooky supernatural manifestations, and as before they try to balance the horror with sentimental moments that tug the heartstrings. In this case however, they over-reach themselves, eventually descending into overwrought melodrama.
This time, Joey Cheng (Shu Qi) begins to encounter the souls of the dead after a break-up with her boyfriend Sam (Jesdapron Pholdee) leads to a half-hearted suicide attempt (she takes pills but leaves a wake up call so that someone will arrive in time to save her). In the hospital, the doctors tell her she is pregnant. She tries to reconnect with Sam, but he refuses to take her phone calls. Joey is haunted by visions of the dead, who seem interested in her and other pregnant women. A monk (Philip Kwok) explains that these are souls waiting to be reincarnated, but the thought brings no peace to Joey, who is pursued by a the ghost of a woman who jumped to her death in front of a train. Eventually, Joe learns that the woman was Sam’s wife, and the guilt over her death is what drove him to sever his relationship with Joey. Joe, not wanting the spirit of her dead rival to reincarnate in her unborn child, decides to kill herself and her baby…
Like its predecessor, THE EYE 2 employs a clever strategy, providing a reason for skeptics to discount the ghostly visions: in THE EYE, Mun had only recently regained her sight; in the EYE 2, Joey is pregnant, and everyone simply assumes that all those extra hormones are making her hysterical.
Unfortunately, once the premise has been set up, the screenplay does not know where to go with it. Joey sees ghosts and freaks out, but it becomes clear very soon that these souls are not threatening. Joey’s search for the identify of the female ghost following her provides some plot, and it ties in nicely with story of her breakup with Sam, but even that leads to a dramatic dead end.
In effect, there is no real problem to solve; it is all a matter of Joey coming to understand and accept what is happening around her. Her inability – or outright refusal – to do so is the only engine driving the plot. Long after we know there is nothing really at stake, she continues act in a hysterical fashion as if bedeviled by the supernatural forces that are, in fact, not trying to hurt her.
Joe comes across as whiny, selfish, and pathetic. As if her half-faked suicide attempt at the opening were not enough (she takes the pills because she fears Sam might be drifting away from her, not because they have actually had an ugly breakup), she attempts suicide again, by jumping off the hospital. In a sequence rather obviously lifted from Roman Polanski’s excellent THE TENANT, the first fall does not kill her, so she drags herself up back up the stairs – and jumps again! (Apparently, no one is on duty to notice her or the trail of blood she leaves.)
The effect is laughable rather than horrible, severing any vestiges of audience identification with the character. The script then tops this by having Joey survive the second fall as well – and then deciding to live, after the ghost of Sam’s wife begs her not to destroy her unborn baby. The final fade-out, of Joey and her baby doing fine in the hospital, is about as contrived and unconvincing as the worst Hollywood happy ending ever filmed.
The best thing THE EYE 2 has going for it is the ghosts. In an inversion of the previous film, they show up not at the time of death but at the time of birth. In a clever nod to the original, the Pang Brothers stage the film’s most memorable horror scene in an elevator, but this time the leading lady is not alone; she is in a hospital with a pregnant friend who is bleeding, and while the nurses frantically try to deal with the emergency, a floating spirit appears. Working with the special effects team, the directors visualize the the ghost in a fascinating way: a floating apparition who defies gravity, hair billowing out like someone swimming underwater, as she moves with the glacial perfection of the space ships docking in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – except in this case, their docking station is the birth canal of the unborn baby she hopes to inhabit.
To be fair, the revelation of the identify of Sam’s wife, followed by his explanation to Joey of the emotional fall-out from her death, is a very well-handled piece of drama, which to large extent recaptures the effectiveness of THE EYE (which also mixed sentiment with scares). Sadly, moments like these – as good as they are – cannot overcome the weak scenario and the unlikable protagonist. THE EYE 2 is worth seeing for the set pieces, but you would be better off re-examining the original.
As with THE EYE, the Lionsgate DVD for THE EYE 2 presents the film in a widescreen (1.85) transfer. The 5.1 surround sound features the original soundtrack (with the characters speaking Cantonese, Thai, and English), and there are English subtitles.
Bonus features include trailers and a making-of featurette. In the latter, the Pang Brothers claim that, once again, their film includes scary scenes inspired by “real life” ghost stories (which probably would be more accurately termed “urban legends). They also state that, for THE EYE 2, they were more focused on telling a story, particularly a love story, than on simply making a horror movie.
There is also an “Alternate Ending,” but it is presented without subtitles. In it, we see Joey in the hospital surrounded by her best freind and her boyfriend, who walk away while Joey talks to her new baby. Apparently, this ending is part of an alternate version of the film, in which Joey jumps off the building only once.
THE EYE 2(”Gin Gwai 2,” 2004). Directed by Oxide Pang and Danny Pang. Written by Lawerence Cheng and Jo Jo Yuet-chun Hui. Cast: Qi Shu, Eugenia Yuan, Jesdaporn Pholdee, Philip Kwok, May Phua, Rayson Tan, Alan Tern, Sawm Yow.