While “The Eye” starts out like a “Sixth Sense” clone with some “Blind Terror” thrown in, this psychological horror thriller gradually takes its share of more original turns. A departure for directors Danny and Oxide Pang — credited as Pang Brothers — from the Thai gangster turf of their previous joint outing “Bangkok Dangerous,” the slick Hong Kong production could have used cleaner narrative lines and fine-tuning of love interest elements. But its sharp visuals and genuinely creepy atmosphere combine with enough chills to secure scattered sales and suggest significant remake potential.
Blind since the age of 2, 18-year-old Mann (Lee Sin-Je) undergoes a corneal transplant to restore her sight. But even before her vision becomes clear, she starts seeing more than she should. Black-clad figures visible only to Mann begin prefiguring actual deaths and recently departed souls start appearing before her.
She seeks help from therapist Wah (Lawrence Chou), who develops more than a professional interest, but the visions persist, becoming increasingly malevolent. Mann’s sanity begins to crack when she sees another woman looking back at her from the mirror.
Mann establishes the identity of that woman as her cornea donor Ling. Journeying from Hong Kong to the girl’s native village in Northern Thailand to find out more, she immediately recognizes the hospital there from her nightmares. She learns that Ling had clairvoyant powers and was regarded as a witch by the villagers; her inability to convince them of an impending fire that would claim their lives drove her to hang herself.
After setting things right with the girl’s spirit and seeing a world free from unwanted intruders for the first time, Mann’s death messengers return while she’s stuck in a freeway traffic jam, foreshadowing the explosive final act’s epic-scale tragedy.
Opening stretch is a little slow to take shape but once Mann’s world begins crawling with restless cadavers things start jumping. There’s some business with an orchestra for blind musicians in which Mann plays violin that feels like a useless distraction, and the Mann-Wah connection is awkwardly developed. But capable f/x work, an ominous electronic score, sharp editing and camera, and a convincingly imperiled lead in Lee make this a better-than-average genre entry.