Lionsgate // 2010 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // October 11th, 2011
Seeing Isn't Believing.
A holiday in Thailand turns into a nightmare for a group of friends from Hong Kong in The Child's Eye, the latest entry in the Pang Bros. Eye series. Not only is the country in the grip of violent anti-government protests, but the hotel they are staying in holds a bizarre secret. Ghostly apparitions and things that go bump in the night are the least of the group's troubles, as their bodies become the playthings of the malevolent forces that inhabit the building.
Visually speaking, The Pang Brothers are still as exciting today as they ever were. With The Child's Eye, they continue to prove they understand the aesthetics of the horror movie better than most. Take for example an early scene where Rainie (Rainie Yang) spies a ghostly figure amongst a riot-filled street, or the moment a barely visible phantasm quietly watches over a sleeping girl. Their use of shadows is exemplary, while their use of tools such as CGI is amongst the best in the horror genre (witness the bizzaro world created in Re-Cycle for further proof of this). Where I find myself frequently at odds with the Pang Brothers is in their ability to craft an engrossing narrative. It's rare you'll find a Pang Brothers' production that lacks an interesting concept, but too often their work is lacking depth, and is in need of fleshing out. The Child's Eye is no different.
Once The Child's Eye reaches the half-hour mark, and things begin to get weird, it's very easy to forget the narrative problems that plague the film. It contains some of the best imagery the duo have ever committed to film (just witness the scene featuring the half-child, half-dog creation as a prime example of this). However, once it becomes time to further the story, the problems begin to mount. Chief amongst these problems is the central premise of the plot, which is a patchwork of themes and ideas that have ruled Asian horror since the late nineties. There comes a point when even the most ardent of horror fans has had enough of avenging spirits and female phantoms whose faces are concealed by their long black hair.
The Child's Eye sees the Pang Brothers overly reliant on jump scares, with little time spent on really working on the atmosphere of the piece. Small moments occasionally break this trend. A scene where Ling (Elanne Kwong) confronts Quan (Ka Tung Lam) over the disappearance of her friends stands out as a suitably tense encounter, as does a subsequent scene where a mobile phone's ringtone threatens to alert a demon to the presence of Ling, but such moments are rare. All too often, the brothers rely on the soundtrack to build the tension, before unleashing another jump scare. This isn't necessarily such a bad thing when done well, as is the case here, but the lack of a interesting story means the film tends to drag, and its effect is lessened with each repeat viewing.
The cast is fine, but much like the plotting of the film, their performances are too informed by what has come before in the J-Horror genre to offer anything exciting or new. Their roles are also far too generic, with the male members of the cast in particular having little of note to make them memorable (or indeed necessary to the plot).
The theatrical release of The Child's Eye offered a 3D presentation of the film, though the DVD release only offers the movie in good old-fashioned 2D. Much of the 3D appears reliant on gimmicky shots of dismembered hands coming at the screen or bullets exploding in the viewers face; it's hardly subtle, but the loss of the extra dimension means these moments work considerably less well than the Pang Bros. intended.
The Child's Eye is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer which is hard to fault. The picture is sharp, with a good level of detail. Colors are intentionally muted, lending the film a familiar Pang Brothers look. Black levels are rock solid, which in turns adds a good deal of depth to the image. The 5.1 soundtrack provides a lively mix, with crisp dialogue being complemented by a suitably effective score, and effects work that makes good use of rear speakers.
The DVD comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette, featuring interviews with the cast and crew; a selection of trailers is also included.
Despite not even attempting to push the boundaries of the horror genre, and too readily conforming to the tropes so familiar to Asian horror, The Child's Eye was much more enjoyable than I expected. The strong visuals admittedly carry the film far too much, but this offers a solid rental and a purchase for those with a particular fondness for the genre or the Pang Brothers' work in general.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R