A sequel that features no characters from the first film, and shares virtually no story elements with its predecessor, reeks of an attempt to cash in. But as it turns out, "The Eye 2" is actually a valiant attempt to follow up on "The Eye".
Since the story in the first film was over and done with when the credits rolled, the Pang brothers - the driving force behind both films - decided to ditch everything from the initial outing, and only keep the basic concept for the sequel: A normal person who suddenly sees ghost everywhere.
I like that. I like the fact they cleared the board and started over, instead of jumping though hoops to try to revive the magic, using the same tricks all over again.
"The Eye" enjoyed great success. It really struck a cord with horror fans everywhere, making it a cult hit along the lines of "The Ring" and "Ju-on". So there was plenty of pressure on the Pang brothers, when they decided to go ahead with the sequel. Luckily the brothers seem undaunted by the task ahead of them. They seem to have made up their mind about what they are going to achieve, and I can't help but being impressed by the way they, so effortlessly, changed the direction of the franchise.
They know they can't make the same film again. So, they make a new one. It's a different story, but ultimately the agenda is the same. The Pang Brothers want to scare us. But then why call it "The Eye 2"? Why not call it something else? No reason whatsoever. Perhaps there's a little cash in involved after all.
Shu Qi faces the biggest acting challenge of her career playing Joey. She's on screen almost non-stop for the entire duration of the film.
With virtually no supporting characters, and the film's entire weighty focus placed squarely on Joey's haunted existence, the whole film rests on Shu Qi's shoulders. She performs impeccably.
The character's heartbreaking downward spiral is brutally illustrated with Shu Qi's detailed and naked performance. It's refreshing to see her so desperate and needy. I'll be the first to admit that I love to watch her take charge and blow the bad guys away, "So Close"-style, but it's nice to be reminded how good an actress she really is, when the material supports it. And it does.
Still, in the hands of a lesser actress, the part could have turned into a scream queen appearance. But even as Joey is pushed to the brink of madness, Shu Qi keeps her performance in check, always relying on simple believable emotions, rooted in reality. Her fear of abandonment, fear of pregnancy and fear of impending motherhood. Those are the things that form the base of her emotional landscape. The ghosts and the ghouls are just another threat towards her and her baby. When she screams she does so, because she fears for her life and the life of her baby, not because "that's what you do when you see a ghost".
Combine that with Shu Qi's least glamourous appearance since "Portland Street Blues". There's no gentle breeze following her everywhere, and no kissable glossy lips in this film, actually she looks like a drug addict most of the time. The result is an utterly believable turn that should earn her praise.
But as good as her performance is, she's somewhat let down by a script that never puts her through anything we haven't seen before.
I liked the idea of the first film. A blind girl who gets her eyesight back, and is faced with a mixed blessing when she suddenly sees ghosts everywhere. That seemed fresh and unique to me. "The Eye 2" seems slightly trivial by comparison, which is not to say that it's bad, it's just somewhat familiar. I was actually reminded of the classic "Rosemary's Baby" on more than one occasion.
By the way, Shu Qi has a few English lines here, and I just gotta say this again: She has the cutest accent ever.
When I saw "The Eye" for the first time I had to turn on all the light in my apartment and look in all the closets, before I could breathe easy again. That film terrified me!
"The Eye 2" never got under my skin the same way. The film has some great shocks, but it's missing that creepy feeling that makes a film haunt you even after you've turned it off...
Perhaps the difference is, with the first film I feared for myself, with the second film I just feared for Joey, and she is - all things being equal - just a character in a movie.
But while the film is lacking in the scary-department, it's quite effective when it comes to atmosphere.
There's just something profoundly unsettling about giving birth (I'm pretty sure I'll hit the deck, the first time I have a chance to witness one firsthand), and the Pang brothers know this. From the moment we learn that Joey is pregnant an insidiously disturbing feeling sets in, and it never stops again. It only gets worse the closer the we get to the actual birth.
On the technical side "The Eye 2" is filled with beautiful and haunting images, and the cinematography is flawless. But oddly enough, the film never uses the sound as effectively as the first film.
The film also has some great changes of pace. From the touching opening with Joey's suicide attempt the film moves on to some claustrophobic and utterly unpleasant hospital scenes, then it's creepy ghost story, and so on. The changes kept me on my toes, constantly unsure of where the film was going to go next. But it wasn't the annoying kind of uncertainty, it was the engaging kind. The one that pulls you further and further into the story.
The climax is sweet and gentle, but also surprisingly gruesome and bloody. In the end my sole thought was "please please please let this turn out good for sweet little Joey". If a film can make me feel like that, I can't call it anything but successful.
Oh, and finally a warning: Do not - REPEAT - do NOT watch this film if you or your girlfriend are pregnant. Seriously, don't! It will most likely have a completely different effect on you and you won't get a moment of rest till the baby's born.