Director – Guillem Morales
Cast – Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui, Francesc Orella, Joan Dalmau, Boris Ruiz, Daniel Grao, Julia Gutiérrez Caba, Clara Segura, Andrea Hermosa
Release Year – 2010
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I was stoked to check out Julia’s Eyes due to my assumption that anything Guillermo del-Toro(Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mimic) related will be a good watch at the very least, and I found this effort to prove that notion true once again. This dark and moody tale provides us with a unique storyline that delivers good horror, resulting in another positive effort form the atmosphere maestros in Spain.
Julia(Belen Rueda; The Orphanage) is a loving wife suffering from a degenerative eye condition slowly causing her to go blind. When her blind sister is found dead from an apparent suicide under mysterious circumstances, Julia’s ambition to solve what she believes to be the murder of her sister brings her to the deadly path of a supernatural killer lurking in the shadows around her.
I love when modern day horror films give me a storyline that I haven’t seen or rarely see, and I applaud writers Guillem Morales and Oriol Paulo for giving me this unique tale. I have seen horror films focusing on the blind in one way or another (The Eye, Eyes of Laura Mars) in the past, but despite this not being a new idea it is a seldom used one that if executed properly can deliver some darn good horror. The conflict takes off quickly in this story, following Julia as she deals with the mysterious and untimely death of her sister, who she knows would have never committed suicide. Things turn awry when she soon learns of her sister’s secret life that was kept from her, which also points to the fact that she may not have been alone when she left this world, aiding her belief that she was murdered. The first two acts play heavily on Julia’s investigation into her sister’s death, which comes with many twists and turns and takes us to several locations. I found this investigative element engaging thanks to the constant interesting developments going on, which also provide for some pretty creepy material as well. These first two acts were phenomenal and provided for most of the great horror the film has to offer. The horror in these acts was supernatural and eerie, and consisted of a unique idea in which the killer was a person able to hide within the shadows of any location, even those in broad daylight. I had never before seen this used in a film, and it was used very well in providing good horror given there are shadows everywhere we go so long as there is sunlight, and when the sun sets it leaves the killer with nearly unlimited hiding spots. While I loved these first two acts dearly, I felt that the third act kept this flick from being a phenomenal effort for numerous reasons. For one, the killer is revealed at the beginning of the third act, killing off the creepy mystery element with way too much time to spare. Had this revelation been reserved for maybe halfway through the third act I would have found it much more positive, but instead we were given a long third act that definitely lost the creepy edge found in the first two. This does not necessarily mean that the third act was a waste, because it was far from that. We are given the most full-frontal horror the film had to offer during this act, but it abandoned the supernatural element and gave us a more realistic approach to the killer that I personally felt was not nearly as scary as keeping things supernatural, mainly due to how well executed the supernatural element was. While not exactly a complaint, I did somewhat balk at the overly cheesy closing sequence to the film, which I found not only very out of place with the rest of the effort but just downright illogical and fantastical. Had the rest of the film included more fantasy elements then I would not have found issue with it, but given it was the only fantasy scene throughout the story it stuck out in the worst way possible, only adding insult to the third act that kept this film from greatness and just a good watch overall.
Writer Guillem Morales also served as the film’s director, who gave us his first feature film since his 2004 breakthrough piece The Uncertain Guest. His use of atmosphere is phenomenal, which seems to be the norm nowadays for Spanish horror (REC, REC 2). His atmosphere is dark, moody, and shadowy, which he uses to full potential in giving us some creepy scenes that were highly executed. I loved how we would have a protagonist yell at a dark corner, saying that she/he knew the killer was there, and then kick us in the face with high paced horror resulting from that. The idea was genius and was one that I rarely (if ever) see used, and I appreciated it highly as it gave me the chills that I wanted to receive. Morales execution of the horror was especially prevalent during the first two acts of the film, although he did manage to make the most out of the third act despite what I mentioned earlier. His execution of the characters was great, with each actor delivering a solid performance and selling this piece to us. The usage of the killer was great at first, namely during the ingenious first two acts of the film, and while I admit that I found him a bit underwhelming when we were exposed to who he really was he managed to deliver his psychotic performance well enough to keep me enjoying his character. The film may come off a bit slow at times due to all of the development going on, but Morales does an excellent job in executing this effort which aids heavily in the pacing as I never once found myself bored over what was going on, just wishing that the film had ended as strong as I wanted it to.
Overall, Julia’s Eyes is another positive horror film from Spain that gives us a sweet tale employing several elements rarely used in the genre and giving us constant developmental twists and turns throughout. Morales’ execution is awesome, and he uses creepy atmosphere to give us some darn good horror at times, making for a recommended watch for those who enjoy atmospheric supernatural films.