“Fish Eye” (SQFFT 2016): Clever Chinese Thriller Short Boasts Striking Technique and Admirable Performances


The Chinese short film Fish Eye (2015) is a suspenseful, elegant-looking thriller that provides a good deal of mystery and tension in its 13-minute running time (before ending credits). Director Tong Zhou creates an atmosphere of paranoia and dread that builds to a gripping climax.

Shasha (Yuti Sun) is a young woman who has moved from the countryside to Beijing. As she heads to the first day of a new assignment as a maid, she is spooked on the bus by talk of a serial killer in the rural area where she is headed. Mr. Wang (Liangbo Wang), the homeowner for whom she will work on this day, seems to her to behave oddly. It doesn’t help matters that she is uncomfortable around his pet cat. He tells her not to disturb him in a certain room if he is working and not to bother him if he doesn’t answer her call. Shasha finds some items, such as a towel with blood on it, that heightens her apprehension.

Liangbo Wang (left) and Yuti Sun  in Tong Zhou’s  short-film thriller Fish Eye.

After leaving the house, she discovers that she left an item behind and enters the house, without Wang’s knowledge, to retrieve it. It is here that Tong Zhou ratchets up the suspense, and she does a fine job of it, working from a screenplay by Jackie Jiahao Hou and Tong Zhou from a story by Hou.

The two leads in Fish Eye impress with skillful performances. Yuti Sun plays Sasha with an absorbing combination of naivete and vulnerability, infusing her character with an emotional distance from and suspicion of others. Liangbo Wang portrays Mr. Wang adeptly, bordering his character on a fine line from which it seems he could teeter into either mere eccentricity or dangerous madness.

Mr. Wang prepares salted fish in his kitchen; new maid Shasha wonders if that is the only thing he slices up.

A unique aspect of Fish Eye is that it is bookended by the musings of a philosophical fish. This aspect is played straight, as is the entire short. Some very dark humor is occasionally at play but levity is not what Tong Zhou aims for. She constructs a classic-feeling tale in which the anxiety on the part of protagonist Shasha builds to a fever pitch. The film looks marvelous, too, thanks to Dezhong Feng’s production design – the doctor’s home looks splendid – and the top-notch cinematography of Ray Changxin Chen. Editor Ziyun Chen builds the pacing toward a taut, nail-biting crest. Wenying Wang’s score, rich with piano and strings, compliments the action stunningly.

Liangbo Wang (pictured here) and Yuti Sun deliver admirable performances in Fish Eye.

If you are a fan of Hitchcockian thrillers that keep you guessing and then deliver a heady blow, keep an eye out for Fish Eye, currently on the festival circuit. Tong Zhou proves herself to be a director with a solid present and a bright future.

Fish Eye: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Fish Eye screens at Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo (SQFFT), October 22-28.


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.