Directed, and co-written, by Guillem Morales, Julia’s Eyes is a superior and creepy thriller that doesn’t actually do a lot that’s new but mixes everything in so well that it stands up as a movie you can easily recommend to others. The fact that it has Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached as a producer has also helped to promote it to the horror community and while that’s great for fans who want to see something new and a million miles away from Saw 15 it’s also a bit of pigeonholing best avoided. The film certainly has a few horror moments but also plays out well, for the most part, as a straightforward and superior thriller.
Having just said that, things get off to a brilliantly spooky start with a blind woman (Sara) talking to someone we can’t see before taking drastic measures to put an end to a situation we don’t really know anything about. It all ends in death.
When her twin sister (Julia, played by Belen Rueda) arrives at the house, husband in tow (Isaac, played by Lluis Homar), to investigate matters things stay nicely creepy for a while. Julia is affected with the same condition causing her eyesight to degenerate and Morales uses his entire movie to play with the imagery, light and shadow to both show the effects of damaged vision and to play around with the very concept of blindness as a condition that can or can’t be easily recognisable. Julia becomes convinced that her sister was killed but she can’t find anyone to help her prove this, while her loving husband just wants her to let it go. Is Julia correct or is she, perhaps, sharing some kind of spiralling insanity that may also have plagued her sister alongside the failing eyesight?
Morales, and co-writer Oriol Paulo, and the crew have created many fine moments here. Creepy, skin-crawlingly tense and technically proficient, Julia’s Eyes is also highly derivative in many instances but it’s to the movie’s credit that these movies don’t always loom large in the viewer’s mind and overshadow what’s happening onscreen. From Blind Terror to The Silence Of The Lambs to Rear Window, if you’re going to be influenced then it may as well be from the best.
The acting is consistently excellent but top marks must go to Rueda for her portrayal of a woman losing her eyesight, patience and possibly her sanity as the situation worsens. Homar is wonderful and the relationship between the two provides a surprisingly sweet and light centre to the dark surrounding. Pablo Duerqi, in a role that often leaves him hidden from sight, isn’t bad either.
The biggest problem with the movie is the fact that it starts off so brilliantly and maintains that level for the first three quarters of the film before turning in to a standard slasher movie with all of the ludicrous implausibilities that come with the territory. There are still separate, great moments and the movie never ever becomes a bad film but nothing in the last quarter of the movie makes the most of the film’s more interesting ideas (set out from the very beginning).
To be fair, even when playing out as something much more straightforward and generic than I’d hoped, the movie still had enough thrills, intermittent nastiness and twisted humour to make it a highly entertaining piece. Check it out before the inevitable remake is announced.
DIRECTOR: GUILLEM MORALES
STARS: BELEN RUEDA, LLUIS HOMAR, PABLO DERQUI, FRANCESC ORELLA, JOAN DALMAU
RUNTIME: 112 MINS APPROX