A stylishly intelligent and suspenseful horror that pays homage to some of the great masters of the genre. Julia’s Eyes is a Spanish production with Hollywood ambition combining the heavyweight Guillermo del Toro as producer, co writer/director Guillem Morales and Belen Rueda as the tormented Julia. There is exceptional photography and orchestrated set pieces delivering some genuine chills but the tension is unfortunately undone by some conflicting characterisations and an overly worked plot.
It will come as no surprise to audiences as to the type of terror that awaits in Julia’s Eyes. The loss of our most vital sense is of course the most common of character handicaps, in this case it takes the form of an impending darkness from a degenerative disease which has already claimed the sight of Julia’s twin sister. Suspecting foul play in her sister Sara’s suicide (played also by Rueda) Julia immediately begins her determined search for answers at the dismay of her husband. Her twin sibling intuition becomes the catalyst which propels her into Morales’ utterly creepy gothic inspired underworld, filled with an array of blind feminine despair and a few masculine perversions for good measure. Her suspicions are more than realised in the form of an unseen terror forever watching her every move. And it’s at these vital points when Morales hits his stride. Taking masterful cues from Hitchcock, Argento and also Michael Powell’s superb Peeping Tom, he wastes no time in setting the famliar cordinates of the horror movie with brilliant multiple visual perspectives to emphasize the torment of Julia’s deteriorating sight.
The horror movie has long been a favourite for those who subscribe to the Freudian school of Pscychoanalysis. Under this perspective I found Julia’s Eyes to be a veritable open book. Without giving away too much, it should come as no coincidence that some houses in horror films do conform to the 3 storey variety as a metaphor for Freuds 3 states of development; The Super Ego, top floor usually a bedroom defined by our conscience, the Ego represented by a lounge or kitchen where rationality and reality interact and of course the basement our Id, where we always find our deepest most basic desires fulfilled. In this film they work as absolute necessities which Morales puts to fantastic use. But perhaps the most canny use of Classical Freud is in ‘the autonmous partial object’ symbolised beautifully in the eyes of the many blind characters. They are those forces or bodies which remain ‘alive’ even after they are dead. The eyes still see even though they are blind. Here Morales does a truly romantic thing.
For all the right tonal mood and energy there were many features that just let this film slip away and, basically, it failed to keep the tension. There just seemed to be one twist too many, and some aspects of Julia’s character conflicted her M. O. At first she is independent and determined in light of rationality and pragmatism the next she is needy and irrational to the point of melodramatic. But I guess what really disappointed me is the over dramatic music during the films creepy moments. This I found a little too Hollywood for my liking, especially as the film was already set in a non-descript suburban setting robbing it of any Spanish authenticity. I just couldn’t get past it. Ironic, I thought that with such effective command of light they resorted to sound to kill the tension in such a garish and trite way. But hey that’s just me.
Let your eyes decide.
DIRECTOR: GUILLEM MORALES
STARS: BELEN RUEDA, LLUIS HOMAR, PABLO DERQUI, FRANCESC ORELLA, JOAN DALMAU
RUNTIME: 112 MINS APPROX