I have had this movie to review for a while and, to be honest, I wish that I had watched it earlier. This is one of the better eastern horror movies out there repaying a patient mind, much like Sixth Sense, with much enjoyment. Red Eye introduces us to a series of characters, the subtitles written in such a way as to make them seem like “regular” people. They all get onto the last train to wherever, leaving at midnight, before learning that this is the last trip this train will make before becoming obsolete. It transpires that a number of years ago this very train was involved in a crash which killed 250 people making this final journey an anniversary of sorts. Even some of the old carriages from the wrecked train have been re-used on this trip. As the journey progresses, the atmosphere becomes more oppressive, with small weird things insinuating themselves into the everyday (or night) humdrum journey. Eventually people begin to disappear and full on visions of the past train wreck invades the traveller's thoughts, even though the point of the spirit's visions is unclear. Red Eye is a traditional ghost story or, more correctly, a ghost train story. Now, I am sure there have been loads of ghost train movies, but the only one I can recall is Dr Terror's House of Horrors. Even then, it is a bit of a stretch to call it an actual ghost train movie. The point I am getting at is I don't have any other movies to contrast against Red Eye, which is a refreshing change amongst a bucket load of “me too” Ringu rip-offs. The first thing you notice is the confined areas that the train provides. Whether in the drinks store room or the toilet, there is no room for the camera or the actors to move, adding intensity to proceedings when things start to go pear shaped. Of course this isn't new; most horror movies conspire to get the protagonists in a situation where they cannot be helped. What is unusual about the train setting is that the mobile phone “get out of jail free problem” is removed. You can imagine in the Shining a simple mobile call to some nearby friendly neighbour would render the whole movie academic, and the “we have no signal” is becoming very tiresome. However, not a lot of options are available on the end of a mobile for a 100 tonne train that is half in our reality to be hauled to a stop from 120 mph without causing a crash that the passengers are trying to avoid in the first place. All this adds to the fresh feeling this movie has and the more original something feels, the more impact it has. To me Red Eye has impact by the skip full.
I must say that the art design is very good indeed, especially when the ghost train begins to manifest. The two worlds of the spirit and reality are easily identifiable, though cunningly the transitions are not. In some scenes, the claustrophobic sets and focussed acting allow the cinematographer to subtly introduce the spirit realm without the watcher noticing until just the right moment.
Red Eye is a success because the stories of the main characters, which caress each other as they develop, are genuinely intriguing. You become interested in their back-story, especially as they converge towards the end, bringing some of the more disjointed story points into focus. I say some, as there are some aspects of Red Eye that remain rather obtuse. There is a small boy who remains something of a mystery to me, though he does offer some disquieting moments. I would also say the title - referring to the photographic fault when the flash reflects the back of the eye - is a misnomer. While there are some important scenes that involve photos, none of them have anything to do with red eye. While that is a small gripe indeed, the ending is a bigger problem. You could call it the “Saw Problem” if you were trying to be funny, where the movie makers have no idea how to end their project, and so use several in the hopes that one of them will satisfy. What happens in reality is the ending as it should have been is diluted to the point of parody and the actual final scene looses any impact what so ever. This is exactly what Red Eye achieves with the last scene being incongruous with both the feel and content of the movie.