Lisa Schwarzbaum
June 13, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In a curious promotional strategy, The Eye is being touted as an Asian supernatural shocker so cool that Tom Cruise’s production company has already bought the remake rights to Americanize it in the same movie blender that turned the Japanese horror hit ”Ringu” into ”The Ring.” Yet ”The Eye”’s distinct, karma-infused Asianness is the very quality that distinguishes the artfully scary, Hong Kong-made ghost story it tells from any other post-”Sixth Sense” creeper in which someone sees dead people.

Part supernatural thriller, part Oliver Sacks-style meditation on the neurological mysteries of perception, and part Buddhist treatise on reincarnation, the story luxuriates in shadows: The apparition-filled world belongs to Mun (swanlike Malaysian actress Lee Sin-Je), a young woman blind since the age of 2 whose sight is restored through a cornea transplant. Mun can see again — but she can’t trust her own eyes, since along with her new vision she also inherits the tormented fate of her dead donor. The po-mo directing team of brothers Oxide and Danny Pang (who picked up four Hong Kong Academy Award noms for the picture) has style to spare, even when the plot thins in its violent B-movie finale. In their fluid, deliciously eerie imagery, the Pangs can make the sight of even a dish of sliced duck in a busy noodle shop seem as ominous as the chilling, blurry specters that only Mun can see.

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