In short, I'm picking three movies and putting them in the order of, let's say superiority. Sometimes this is harder than others. But in this case, I think I've got it down right.
First up, the winner of said handicap:
This is not the wretched remake starring Jessica Alba, it is the original film directed by the Pang Brothers. It packs a punch and should be on any discerning horror fan's life list.
Mun (Angelica Lee) is a classical violinist who undergoes cornea transplants to correct her blindness. She is overwhelmed at first, and getting used to being able to see puts considerable strain on her. While still in the hospital, she sees shadowy figures standing in corners, and in one case it seems the strange shape is escorting a nearby patient out of the room. To her horror, the patient turns up deceased the next morning.
THE EYE is a real favorite of mine, as it evokes a seriously creepy atmosphere and tension runs high throughout. It may not be for everyone, as there is no real gore to speak of and it does travel at a slow pace, but for me, it's plain to see (sorry) that this is one of the better films to come out of Asia.
Next, the second "place" film:
JULIA'S EYES (Los ojos de Julia) 2010
As you may have guessed, I'm a big fan of foreign horror. This Spanish film is no exception to that.
Julia (Belén Rueda, The Orphanage) returns to her sister Sara's home after a feeling that something is wrong. She'd be right. Sara has hung herself in the basement, apparently depressed because a sight-restoring operation did not work. Julia, also afflicted with the same eye ailment, is certain there is more to the story than meets the eye (sorry). She feels an inexplicable presence close-by - and is sure this person (?) is responsible for Sara's death somehow. The film opens up into a full-fledged mystery, but is never far from the unnerving horror at its root. Julia starts to struggle more and more with her own vision as she tries piecing the puzzle of her sister's death together. As shadows emerge and disappear, her husband Issac (Lluís Homar) fears for not just her sight but her sanity, with every twist in the story seemingly causing Julia's eyesight to deteriorate just a little more, until she has absolute fits of blindness when pressured to solve the apparent murder.
The search for an "invisible man" that supposedly had a hand in Sara's murder eventually forces Julia to rethink what may have happened, especially after her husband is found hanged in the same basement.
In her time of anguish, a donor is found for her own eye operation. But afterwards, it is only when Julia is truly blind (because the bandages from surgery cover her eyes) is she able to unravel the secret regarding Sara's death. Using her other senses she sorts through the clues until a final showdown with the dubious killer has her fighting not just for her sight, but her life. Great stuff!
And our "show" (3rd place finisher) film is:
THE EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978)
A true product of the late seventies, THE EYES OF LAURA MARS has Faye Dunaway portraying the title character, a sophisticated and famous fashion photographer. Her photo shoots are different from the standard variety in that she has elaborate sets depicting violence, causing a ruckus within the profession.
Unfortunately, Laura begins to see the deaths of friends and business colleagues through her lens.
Enter a young Tommy Lee Jones as Lt. John Neville, a detective on the case who isn't the only one who finds it unusual that Mars' fashion shoots mimic the recent murder scenes.
As more and more of Laura's friends fall victim to the killer's black gloves (a giallo shout-out if I've ever seen one!), she and John Neville randomly fall in love. She tells him of the vision she has of the killer coming after her and he (like all good movie boyfriends) gives her a gun and a peck on the cheek, wishing her well.
What makes TEOLM so intriguing (besides the garish 70's clothing and music) is Dunaway's over-the-top performance (as per her usual) and some of the almost laughable dialogue. It's a camp classic if there ever was one. And even though it's relatively effortless to figure out the killer, it's always fun to watch Dunaway scream while running. She does it so well.