Directed By: Guillem Morales
Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui
Julia, (Belen Rueda) like her twin sister Sara suffers from a degenerative nerve disease which is slowly turning her blind. When her sister dies, seemingly having committed suicide, Julia senses something doesn’t quite add up. Evidence leads to her sister not being depressed, and had been looking forward to a possible cure following an operation. Discovering that Sara also had a mysterious boyfriend, Julie makes it her goal to investigate Sara’s death and discover the truth. But as she carries out the investigation her disease affects her eyesight more and more, and she keeps feeling that somebody is watching her every move. Is she cracking up? Or is something more sinister going on?
The “Guillermo Del Tor presents” tagline looks set to becoming a very reliable seal of quality on a horror or thriller. Julia’s Eyes can be described as a horror and a thriller for reasons that become obvious as you watch the movie. I’ll try and avoid spoilers, but from the start of this review, it’s going to be difficult to avoid them all.
The movie begins leading us to believe that what we are watching is another supernatural thriller, after all The Orphanage (also presented by Del Toro) started as a supernatural movie and was for the most part of its running time, or so it seemed. As Julia’s Eye progresses, it explores a fine line between supernatural thriller and giallo until the last third which follows a more conventional route, which while slightly disappointing is rescued by the convincing performance given by Rueda.
The fairly simple premise is given substance by Julia’s journey; that of investigating the death of her sister. The lack of supernatural threat is given away within minutes of the film starting but I wasn’t disappointed by this as the movie was kept interesting enough as we follow Julia in her journey of discovery. Tension and atmosphere are adeptly created and maintained, despite the amount of clichés peppering the movies such as the constant disbelief in Julia’s theories and the initial speed in which Julia decides that her sister has been murdered.
One particularly effective scene is where Julia visits a home for blind women and wanders into their changing room. Julia overhears them talking about Sara and listens in, knowing that they can’t see her. In an eerie moment, one of them detects a new scent in the room and one by one the rest do too. The scene reminded me of Day of the Triffids, but typically goes off in a direction I wasn’t expecting.
Julia’s Eyes is refreshing in that it doesn’t rely on the jump style scares that we’re too used to from Hollywood movies. The movie twists and turns, but to a climax that is a little drawn out and reminded me slightly of The Silence of the Lambs, with a camera flash instead of a night scope.
The direction and cinematography is part of what makes this movie special; we see some interesting POV shots from Julia as her eyesight deteriorates, for example. The expert use of lighting and close-up shots help to give the movie some gripping suspense.
The only distraction, and I’m sure it was intentional, was the constant focus on Belén Rueda. She’s a striking looking woman but the director knows and uses this a little too often. Rueda wears a collection of clothes so blatantly figure hugging, I thought I was watching Julia’s Breasts not Julia’s Eyes. It doesn’t make for unpleasant viewing but took me out of the film a couple of times. Maybe, it’s just my male side working a little too much.
Both Belén Rueda, and Lluís Homar give memorable performances helping to draw us into the story but unfortunately at the sacrifice of depth of other characters. Whilst Julia’s Eyes deviates from the clichés of Hollywood thrillers it still relies on too much convention, especially towards the end. It’s still miles better than the current crop being churned out of the Hollywood recycling machine.