After finally getting an opportunity to direct with the 1973 film “The Bamboo House of Dolls,” director Kuei Chih-hung gained a reputation for being a top choice to lead the more provocative side of genre films at Shaw Brothers studio. His works, such as “The Killer Snakes,” “Corpse Mania,” and “Bewitched,” only solidified this reputation and he continued to be responsible for similar projects throughout his career at the studio. Therefore, it’s peculiar to see him in charge of this lesser-known early film, “Ghost Eyes,” which is more restrained compared to his later works but still manages to be quite enjoyable and worthwhile.
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After encountering each other at their workplace, Bao Ling (played by Chen Szu Chia), a manicurist, strikes up a conversation with her new client Shi (played by Sze Wei). However, an unexpected incident leads her to visit him at his optometrist store. After receiving contact lenses to replace her previously damaged glasses, Bao Ling begins to realize that Shi is using the lenses to control her. Both she and her boyfriend Au-ping (played by Lin Wei-tu) are unable to remove the lenses or understand what is happening to her. They soon discover that Shi’s ultimate goal is to possess Bao Ling and use her to gain power over the other workers at her manicurist shop. In order to stop him from achieving his plan of returning to the living world as a vampiric ghost, they seek the help of various supernatural experts.
In general, “Ghost Eyes” was an enjoyable and well-written film. One of its highlights was the captivating storyline written by Chen Yun-Wen and Kuang Ni, which incorporated several enjoyable elements. The initial setup between Bao and Shi is innocuous, but it gradually leads to greater danger. The recurring plot of Bao waking up naked in a strange bed or seeing people that no one else can see is executed well. The combination of these events reveals the supernatural affliction that Bao is facing, and the concept of possession is explored logically. The revelation of Shi’s malicious plans and how Bao breaks free from her trance adds unexpected twists to the typical genre.
Furthermore, this arrangement serves as a prelude to a plethora of eerie supernatural occurrences. The first portion of “Ghost Eyes” primarily focuses on two types of psychological scares: the effects of the vampire’s draining of the protagonist’s life force and her ability to see ghosts that are invisible to others. These visions are quite disturbing, whether they depict mundane activities or the cries for help from the victims of a mudslide. While the psychological torments in the film are impressive, the subplot involving Shi using Bao for sexual gratification before forcing her to bring victims for him to kill introduces a Taoist Priest who saves her. This leads to a thrilling finale where the climax is both chilling and creative, with inventive effects that make for an enjoyable experience.
Some issues with “Ghost Eyes” bring it down. One main drawback is its jarring and odd structure that switches tempo to fit the scene. The first half, where Bao realizes Shi has possessed her and is controlling her, moves quickly and offers a lot to enjoy. However, the middle of the film slows down as they try to figure out what’s happening and why Bao is acting differently. There are too many meetings between the two or attempts by her boyfriend, Au-ping, to talk sense into her, which don’t add much. Another flaw is the lack of expected sleaze or gore, making this film feel dry and underwhelming. These are the biggest issues with “Ghost Eyes.”
A generally fine genre effort with a lot to like here, “Ghost Eyes” comes off quite a bit better than expected even if there are some drawbacks that do bring it down. Those who appreciate this type of genre fare, are fans of the creative crew or are curious about this one will enjoy it.