(Gin Gwai 2)
Thailand/Hong Kong. 2004.
Directors – Pang Brothers, Screenplay – Jojo Hui, Story – Jojo Hui & Lawrence Cheng, Producers – Jojo Hui, Lawrence Cheng & Peter Ho-sun Chan, Photography – Decha Srimantra, Music – Payont Permsith, Visual Effects Supervisors – Eddy Wong & Victor Wong, Special Effects – Menford Electronic Art, Production Design Consultant – Bruce Yu. Production Company – Applause Pictures/Media Corp Raintree Pictures
Shu Qi (Joey Cheng), Jesdaporn Pholdee (Sam), Eugenia Yuan (Sam’s Wife), Ren Yuan Yuan (Mrs Chow), Philip Kwok (Buddhist Master)
Feeling ignored by her married lover Sam, Joey Cheng signs into a hotel room and takes an overdose of sleeping pills. However, she is rescued by the hotel staff and rushed to hospital. Not long after coming around, Joey realises that she can see phantom figures around her that nobody else can. She also learns that she is pregnant. As the ghostly visions increase, Joey realises that the spirit of a dead woman is trying to reincarnate in the body of her unborn child. Haunted by the ghost at every turn, Joey sets out to find who the woman used to be.
Thailand’s Pang Brothers, Oxide and Danny, had a substantial international hit with the ghost story The Eye (2002). The Eye propelled the Pang Brothers to become some of the most exciting new talents in the 00s wave of Asian horror films. The Eye 2 is a sequel and they followed with a further sequel, The Eye 10 (2005), before the original underwent a thoroughly disappointing Hollywood remake The Eye (2008). The Pang Brothers have made various other genre films, including the fantasy film Re-Cycle (2006); the Hong Kong Wu Xia film Storm Warriors (2009); and the ghost story The Child’s Eye (2010). They were imported to the US to make the English-language ghost story The Messengers (2007) and the English-language remake of Bangkok Dangerous (2008). Elsewhere, they wrote the screenplay for Omen (2003). Oxide on his own has directed Who is Running? (1997) about a man who can predict tomorrow’s newspaper headlines, an episode of the ghost story anthology Bangkok Haunted (2001), Ab-Normal Beauty (2004) about a woman who is obsessed with death; the ghost story Diary (2006), the quasi-supernatural detective story The Detective (2007) and the horror film Sleepwalker (2011); as well as wrote/produced The Remaker (2005). Danny Pang has solo directed Forest of Death (2007), In Love with the Dead (2007), Fairy Tale Killer (2012) and The Strange House (2015), and solo produced Scare 2 Die (2008).
The Pang Brothers start The Eye 2 with a captivating opening. We follows Shu Qi as she buys some clothes, calls Jesdaporn Pholdee to ask his opinion about buying a brown or a green tie, gets a curt response and so signs into a hotel room – where throughout the scene the emphasis is on the banality of what she is doing – and then takes the sleeping pills. Just as she starts to expire, we suddenly see blurrily indistinct shapes standing around her bed.
As was the case in The Eye, the Pang Brothers give us all manner of spooky happenings littered throughout – ghost shapes reflected in the water on Shu Qi’s bathroom floor as she gets out of the bath; the scene where Shu Qi joins a man and woman sitting in a locker room and consoles the woman who is distraught because her husband has not called, before the woman asks her who it is that she is talking to; the woman in the taxi who turns and reveals that she has a ponytail where her face should be; and especially the image of Eugenia Yuan who joltingly jumps out in front of an oncoming train at the station but cannot be seen by anybody except Shu Qi.
There is the completely unearthly scene in an elevator when the power goes out and the pregnant mother starts to go into labour and we see a figure that looks like a woman swimming underwater floating through the air, trying to make its way into the mother’s womb but pulls away as the mother starts to miscarry and turns to look directly at Shu Qi. One of the weirdest scenes is where Shu Qi waits on a bus stop and a sourceless phantom voice asks her “Ma’am what is the time?” before a body of a boy falls on the street right in front of her, followed by a second body, and then the two boys lie there with blood coming out of their skulls wondering aloud “My dad’s late home … my head hurts.” The Pang Brothers in one’s opinion are some of the finest directors at the forefront of contemporary genre material and have an ability to create wildly unearthly haunted scenes that are unsurpassed by any other directors currently at work.
I thought The Eye 2 was a much superior film to The Eye. The Eye started with some genuinely spooky occurrences but allowed these to dissipate into a routine variant on the inherited memories thriller. Rather than simply repeat the same story, the Pang Brothers expand The Eye 2 out into a remarkable horror story about a pregnant woman who becomes fearful of what is trying to reincarnate in the body of her unborn child.
There is a much more substantial plot here than there was in The Eye – one that travels in a beautiful full circle to weave together all the elements that it raises – the ghost woman who is trying to reincarnate in Shu Qi’s child, Jesdaporn Pholdee’s wife who committed suicide and the phone call that Shu Qi made to him at the very start – with a dazzling cleverness. There is a wonderful ending where Shu Qi walks up to the hospital roof and jumps off to avoid the ghost woman, but survives and then drags herself bloodied up the stairs to jump again and the ghost woman appears to her to gently appeal: “I beg you. Let me move on. All I want to do is forget everything.” It’s a moment that suddenly turns the sympathies and fears of the film around on their head.
There is a clear belief in Buddhist doctrines that runs throughout the Pang Brothers’ works and these get their fullest flowering here. Indeed, The Eye 2 becomes a remarkable paean by the Pang Brothers to pregnancy and reincarnation – and a treatment that manages to be both thoughtful and uniquely original in terms of genre cinema. The film goes out on the haunting image of a Le Marze class with blurry souls standing waiting behind the mothers-to-be.