Anyone who frequents the blog will undoubtedly notice my excursions into the horror genre are few and far between for various reasons. Be it their predictable lukewarm plots, be it their needless gore factor, be it I simply scare quite easily, it's just never been something I've been particularly interested in. However when Spanish genre genius, Gullermo del Toro goes out of his way to take on producing duties for little known director, Guillem Morales, I usually have to take a bit of notice. But does Julia's Eyes live up to the expectation its prestigious producer may hold?
The film tells the harrowing tale of Julia (Belen Rueda) as she soughs to discover the answers to her twin sister's mysterious suicide, all the while she's battling a degenerative disease which will eventually make her completely blind. The story itself is tense and atmospheric, for the most part, and unravels like a Hitchcock-esque psychological thriller, which in my view is hardly a bad thing. Once the aura of the supposed supernatural elements distinguishes, you're left with quite a gritty thriller, reminiscent of Kiss The Girls, Psycho and Silence of the Lambs - which meant it was surprisingly heavy on plot and less so on genuine scares, and frankly all the better for it.
One of the true highlights of the film was the leading performance of Belen Rueda - last seen in the truly excellent horror also produced by del Toro, The Orphanage - who was able to carry off a vast range of emotions absolutely seamlessly. Her chemistry with Lluis Homar in the more, surprisingly, tender moments of the film added real emotional depth to the grim overtones littered throughout the feature.
It was also evident Morales put a lot of thought into the personal conflicts the character had to deal with, from coping with the circumstances of her sister's death, the horror of being stalked by a man she could not see and also having to come to terms with her inevitable blindness on a reflective and personal level, which became more caustic as the film progressed.
One of my biggest criticisms of Julia's Eyes however, was ultimately how underwhelmed I felt once figuring out the mystery, itself - which after a few winks and nods shouldn't be too difficult for most of the audience to grasp - and the supernatural order simply fell away to something that reminded me of an episode of Waking The Dead. Nevertheless there was room for some genuinely creepy scenes, including an unsettling moment involving a number of blind women in a changing room as Julia listens in on their conversation, leading to a tense chase down some darken corridors and sparse rooms.
Though the twists are evident for most to see and the film is perhaps 15 minutes longer than it truly needed to be, Julia's Eyes is still a dark and atmospheric entry into the growing list of quality Spanish horror films to come into the mainstream over the past few years. It might not hit the visual heights of such classics as Pan's Labyrinth or The Orphanage but the director still conducts his production with enough heart to keep the audience interested and in suspense from the horrific beginning to its tender bitter-sweet end.
Julia's Eyes is in selected cinemas across the UK now.