1.5 stars out of 5
One would expect, from a title as such, that the key to the story in this film lay in the light-detecting organs of a child, or children, and their inherent nature or ability.
With this being a Pang Brothers horror flick, one would have surmised that the titular eye referred to supernatural sight – the unfortunate ability to see ghosts – as portrayed in the Pangs’ breakout horror hit The Eye (2002) and its first sequel The Eye 2 (2004).
While The Child’s Eye has elements of both the first two films, as well as thematic similarities to the campier, more darkly humorous and playful third sequel, The Eye 10 (2005), it is unfortunately easily the worst horror film from its writer-directors.
Touted as Asia’s first digital 3D horror flick and apparently not officially ordained as a member of the Eye franchise, it is not consistently scary or funny and possesses little depth in its plot and characters. To put it bluntly, this film, despite a few effective scenes of terror, has the disposition of a film that has been put together lazily and hastily.
It looks and feels cheap – the 3D sequences are of the variety where objects are thrown to or rush towards the audience – and the script seems woefully underwritten.
Having Taiwanese cutie-pie Rainie Yang (Spider Lilies) and Hong Kong hunk Shawn Yue (Reign of Assassins) as headliners matters little when they exhibit zero chemistry as one of three holidaying couples from Hong Kong trapped in Bangkok due riots in November 2008.
(There is no discernible subtext in the backdrop of the political unrest; it appears merely a plot device to keep the characters in Bangkok, the Pangs’ horror stomping ground.)
Lodged reluctantly at a seedy motel while awaiting the reopening of the airport, the six tourist friends, who have a penchant for ghost stories and mystical beliefs, start to experience strange goings-on. Some of their party start to fall ill and act strangely.
It later dawns on them that a trio of raggedy local children, and their cute dog, who appear out of nowhere are the only ones who can see what is happening to them. They carry a secret, involving a gruff-looking crippled man working at the motel that they choose not to reveal until the script deems appropriate.
A number of troubling aspects of the film are culpable for its mediocrity.
First of all, to be pedantic, the film’s title is a misleading misnomer. As far as one can tell from the mangled plot, some of the tourists, the children, as well as the dog, can see the ghosts, albeit in fits and starts, and not all at once.
Secondly, the film employs many conventional, mind-numbing cheap tricks to induce scares. The most egregious trick is a flashback that purports to but doesn’t actually tell the whole story – a cardinal sin, in my book – serving up a contrived ‘twist’ to infuriate all right-minded viewers.
Thirdly, many scenes are poorly directed and long drawn-out in the presumed hope that dramatic tension would automatically arise. The awkward pacing will invariably fill you with the pressing, recurring urge to cry out loud, “Get on with it, already!”
Last but not least, the characters appear disturbingly out of step with reality; they keep verbalising all their thoughts – including soliloquies of plot developments – while acting as if they were driven only by the film’s plot, not human reason.
One scene of groping in the dark stands out as the best among the scary set pieces, while the idea of a fantasy world made up of paper houses and everyday items, like those burned as offerings to the dead, was promising but unfortunately not fully capitalised on.
The film also includes a grotesque child-like monster that strains incredulity, as does its big reveal that seems to rip off The Prestige. Meanwhile the love story between the Yue and Yang characters is shoehorned so clumsily that it sucks the air right out of the cinema each time it appears on screen.
Watching this film is just about as pleasant as getting a poke in the eyes – maybe less – except that the pain that the former inflicts last much, much longer.
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.