Welcome, fright from afar
It's not that Hollywood doesn't make scary movies. I mean, just seeing the trailers for 'Dumb and Dumberer' and 'Alex & Emma' scared the hell out of me.
The problem is, the stuff that's meant to be scary is just boring, the horror genre having long since been reduced to virtually nothing but slash-'em-up teen drivel. If you want to be scared by Hollywood, you have to do something like ponder the stardom of Vin Diesel.
So we must look to abroad for our shocks, and fortunately Hong Kong and Britain are ready to oblige us. Through a felicitous coincidence of booking, two imports have arrived on the same day to chill up some summer goose bumps.
Hong Kong has been kicking Hollywood butt in a lot of genres for years now, and 'The Eye' is no exception. Directed by the Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide (what baby-name book were their parents reading?), this might be called 'The Sixth Sense and Sensibility' for its distinctively Asian take on a shivery ghost tale. When a young woman (Lee Sin-Je), blind since age 2, regains her sight via transplanted corneas, she also inherits terrifying visions, apparently from the orbs' previous owner.
After a stun-gun opening minute that gets you ready for anything, the Pangs prove to be as concerned with perceptual mysteries and matters of reincarnation as with jolts. But they deliver a fluid, elegant series of disturbing visions that never allow you to settle down.
Their inventive use of digital effects enhances the eerie mood rather than hammers viewers with bombast Tinseltown-style, and Lee makes a delicate but spirited heroine with whom to explore the undiscovered world that's fright before her eyes.
Meanwhile, director Danny 'Trainspotting' Boyle takes a cattle prod to the zombie thriller in '28 Days Later.' The title refers to the time elapsed between the accidental release of a clinically spawned rage virus and the awakening of a comatose bike messenger (Cillian Murphy), who finds himself seemingly alone in a London turned ghost town.
He's not alone, though. The city Ñ the world? Ñ is plagued with night-stalking, rage-infected fiends who know only the impulse to kill.
But these ain't your father's lumbering zombies. They're spastic, rabid, red-eyed, blood-vomiting monsters, and Boyle adopts an immediate, unsettling style to suit them. He shoots on video, to resemble the violence-drenched news footage that opens the movie Ñ the kind we see every day.
Unleashing periodic jolts of strobe-popping frenzy, Boyle fares better in the creepy London first half (a crawlier version of 'The Omega Man') than in a later stretch in which a band of rogue soldiers predictably proves worse than the diseased hell-spawn.
Not unlike 'The Eye,' it comes up a few jumps short of a complete header into the grave, but not without breathing some welcome death into a genre that has become too lethargically zombified.
Now, we saved the real spooker for last. Tom Cruise has bought the rights to do a Hollywood remake of 'The Eye.' Can't you just see it: 'Vanilla Eye.' Talk about scary.