The Pang Brothers have the foresight to not reference the previous film, but do they have enough material to make a standalone sequel?
“All human beings have the innate ability to channel every incarnation of existence. But as we age, this ability gradually fades away. This ability can be recalled under two conditions: The first is when you’re on the verge of dying. The second is when you’re giving birth. Both situations have happened to you.”
In my review for the Pang Brothers sophomore film The Eye, I mentioned that a film like that had the potential to take a formula we’re all very aware of and make a film that feels fresh and original. To some extent the film pulled it off: it was never anything groundbreaking, but there was enough care and attention put into what we saw and didn’t see that built up a tension and a sense of dread throughout. The story was cool, but definitely incidental. In the sequel, these roles are flipped and the film suffers for it.
It deals with Joey (Shu Qi), a somewhat mentally unstable woman who tries to kill herself after thinking her boyfriend Sam has left her (Jesdaporn Pholdee). In her dying state, she sees shadows of people watching her in her room. However, she is discovered and taken to hospital. As she recovers, she learns she’s pregnant and though she does try to start fresh, these circumstances leave her emotionally shaken. She begins to see ghostly figures: especially one particular woman (Eugenia Yuan) who Joey believes is stalking her and wants to kill her child.
The Eye 2 puts a lot of work in building a story, and as a result constructs a pretty fleshed-out world. It creates its own mythology – that only those close to birth or death can see spirits – and works little twists into it. There’s a Buddhist monk (character actor and stuntman Philip Kwok in his most recent film role) that Joey frequently visits, who gives her spiritual advice and all the exposition you need to make sense of the world.
This film has practically zero links to the first movie, and even the methods used to see ghosts aren’t the same. It’s a sequel in name only, but that probably works to its advantage. This helps it stand up as its own film, without needing to resort to a pre-existing continuity to work, and therefore ends up being able to do its own thing, giving us some clever twists on death and the afterlife.
Where it fails is its ability to frighten. I don’t remember being scared by a single thing in The Eye 2 (although there was a decent fake-out jump-scare near the start that wasn’t necessarily all that scary). The Pang Brothers have certainly stepped up the cinematography and there are plenty of neat visuals with the ghosts, but none of them are frightening. It’s a shame because the cast is quite good, they could have sold this premise as being genuinely scary if the directors had bothered to build up any kind of suspense. Shu Qi gives this role her all, and without her the character of Joey probably would have been less sympathetic and more simply pathetic. Qi and Yuan don’t even interact properly, but they have a weird ghost-human chemistry that basically sells the whole film.
Is it worth watching? If you enjoyed the first one, and are up for more of the same: sure. The story is good, and the camera work, but often the dialogue and the characters’ motivations are stupid. It’s a good film to take half-seriously, if you want something short, and easy to make fun of, all the while being decently entertaining.
Verdict: The Eye 2 has enough cool ideas to sustain it, but the ridiculousness of some scenes and the complete lack of suspense make it very forgettable.
The Eye 2 (2004)
Also known as: 見鬼2
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang
Writer: Jojo Hui
Shu Qi – Joey Cheng
Eugenia Yuan – Yuen Chi-kei
Jesdaporn Pholdee – Sam
Philip Kwok – Monk
Rayson Tan – Gynaecologist