Pang Brothers' 3D horror film bows in HK

'Child's Eye' returns to twins' horror roots

HONG KONG – “The Child’s Eye” director Oxide Pang urges the filmmaking community in Hollywood and Hong Kong not to squander the potential for the stereoscopic 3D medium with substandard copycats converted from 2D, he told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview.

“We as filmmakers have a responsibility to uphold the standard of the 3D format and do our best to harness the full potential of the medium. We can’t let shoddy products ruin the audience’s impression of Hong Kong-made 3D films. The same is true for the local industry and Hollywood filmmakers who release 3D films converted from 2D only in post-production at the last minute. We have to discipline ourselves,” said Pang.

Pang, half of a twin-brother directing team with sibling Danny, whose new film for Universe Films, “The Child’s Eye," the first 3D horror film made in Hong Kong, is releasing across Asia this week. 

The scarefest was set during the 2008 anti-government protests in Thailand, partly inspired by the 2006 Bangkok shoot of the Nicolas Cage remake of the duo's thriller “Bangkok Dangerous,” amidst the military coup d’etat that overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Pang went to the cinemas to observe the opening day crowd for “The Child’s Eye” on Thursday in Hong Kong, and saw firsthand the three main advantages that 3D brings to the film industry as a whole.

“First, the audience was more inclined to go to the cinema for a 3D film. Second, they actually made more of an effort to book their seats in advance for a better 3D experience, and started calling their friends when they realized that the central seating were sold out. It was a bit of a herd effect, but also something we haven’t seen much for local films since the 1980s or 90s,” Pang noted. “Third, it diminishes piracy.”

The directors are now testing 3D Blu-ray technology for the $5 million film’s home video release later this year, likely to be the first for a Hong Kong film. The brothers, who shot to international fame with “The Eye,” also plan to make a 3D horror film every two years. 

“There’s no turning back for us with using 3D for the horror genre,” Pang admitted. “3D is now a film language, a form. It’s becoming so common that 3D films are no longer a novelty.  But it serves as a determining factor when people decide to go to the theatre to see a film or not.”

“The Child’s Eye” marks the first time the twins return to the horror genre that established their name since “Re-cycle” in 2006. The film made its world premiere in September at the Venice International Film Festival, where 3D technologist praised the technical achievements of Hong Kong-made film but critics slammed the story. 

“The film is a like rollercoaster ride. It’s too much to ask for any inspiration for life on a rollercoaster ride. We’ve actually tried that before – when we incorporated the message of environmentalism in ‘Re-cycle’. But then people said that film wasn’t scary enough.  You can’t be greedy and expect a horror film to have everything, and ask why a rollercoaster ride isn’t more touching or inspirational," said in response to the criticism.

Having completed their first foray into the 3D filmmaking arena, the twin brothers will go their separate ways in their next 3D endeavors, starting with elder twin Oxide’s next 3D project “The Sleep Walker," a HK$20 million ($2.6 million) psychological thriller starring his wife and long-time collaborator, the Malaysia-born actress Angelica Lee (“Re-cycle”). 

The film is produced by Universe Films, with whom the directors have a long-term, no-time/picture-limit exclusive deal. The supernatural elements and scare tactics intrinsic in Pang Brothers’ brand of horror that have served them well in 3D will be replaced by the manipulation of space and dimensionality of the 3D medium in the new film, Pang said. 

“I want to use 3D to create audience subjectivity, so that the audience can see themselves in the characters’ environment,” he noted.

Filming for “The Sleep Walker” is scheduled to start at the end of this month in Hong Kong and Thailand for a 2011 release.