Julia’s Eyes Review

It’s what you don’t see.

That’s what always makes a horror film scary to me, what the director doesn’t show you, so you can fill in the blanks yourself with whatever it is you’re most afraid of.

Guillem Morales seems to have taken this idea to the next level with Julia’s Eyes, where the central character gradually loses their sight throughout the film.

Julia, played by Belén Rueda, is a successful astronomer with a degenerative sight disease that is triggered through stressful situations. When she learns that her twin sister Sara, also played by Rueda, has been found hanged in the basement of her house, Julia rushes back home.

Afflicted by the same disease as her sibling, Sara was already blind and the case is written off by police as a suicide. Julia cannot accept this and jeopardises her own vision to investigate her sister’s death, entering a world that hides a mysterious stranger and a dark secret.

There seems to have been somewhat of a renaissance in horror films in the last decade, usually with a Hispanic accent.

The inspiration behind this has been Guillermo del Toro, the maverick Mexican director behind Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy but who also cut his teeth on cult horror classic Cronos.

Del Toro’s role as producer in Julia’s Eyes has been persistently played up in the PR for this film, and you can understand why as his cinematic voice is guaranteed to create interest in any feature.

However, if you’re expecting something as fantastical as del Toro has conjured with Julia’s Eyes you’re likely to be disappointed.

Director Guillem Morales has crafted a well executed genre film in Julia’s Eyes, with some original touches to boot. The story is told from Julia’s point of view and, as her sight deteriorates throughout the film, so too does the audience’s field of vision for some scenes.

If gruesome special effects turn you on, there’s enough of that on show to keep you satisfied. Most impressive of these effects may just be Belén Rueda’s body which, in keeping with horror tradition, seems to defy physics at numerous points in the action.

Alas, as with nigh on all horror films, Julia’s Eyes suffers from both a horribly convenient script and the predictable recycling of generic tricks to scare the audience.

Opportune plot devices and actions no sane person would ever contemplate in reality are created to force clichéd horror situations for characters to put themselves in danger. As Julia’s sight begins to fail, she insists on staying in her dead sister’s house even though she suspects someone murdered her there.

Cue endless footage of a vulnerable woman on her own, running around in an empty house from things that may or may not even be real.

Naturally, these scenes are accompanied by overly loud and dramatic sound effects as Morales tries to ratchet up the tension. Of course, anyone who’s ever watched a horror film will be familiar with these hackneyed tricks thus neutering the director’s intent.

There is a pleasant sting to this tale, as the secret of Julia’s Eyes unravels towards the end, but it’s really just an average horror movie told with some spanish flair.

Something even del Toro appeared blind to.

Jonathan Campbell

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May 2011
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