Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Guillem Morales

Stars: Belen Rueda, Luis Homar.

Julia’s Eyes is a strong but cliched and rather generic Gothic suspense thriller that closed the Spanish Film Festival.

Julia (Belen Rueda, from The Orphanage, etc) is gradually going blind from a degenerative disease. It is the same disease that plagued her twin sister. But when her sister is found dead as the result of a suspected suicide, Julia cannot accept the truth and begins her own investigation. Julia believes that her sister was murdered, but she finds it hard to convince anyone else. Her sceptical husband Isaac (Luis Homar) wants her to leave matters alone and worry about her own health. She feels the presence of some stranger watching her, following her. The stress she begins to feel hurries the progress of her disease, and before long she undergoes an eye transplant.

Julia’s Eyes is an effective and creepy tale of murder, obsession, paranoia and madness, and is rich in atmosphere. It is also a cinematic exercise in spooky style. This suspenseful film works as an homage to Hitchcock and his oeuvre, but it is also wonderfully reminiscent of those blind women in peril films like Wait Until Dark and Blind Terror.

Guillermo del Toro has produced the film and it does contain some of his signature touches, but his involvement is actually quite minimal. Director Guillem Morales (The Uncertain Guest) is certainly a talent to watch. He demonstrates an innate understanding of the cliches of the genre, and the film is filled with plenty of moments of grim humour and nasty shocks. He also manages to suffuse the main settings with an air of foreboding. Morales co-wrote the script with Oriol Paulo, and the film deliberately borrows from a number of sources, including Rear Window, the films of Brian de Palma and even Italian horror master Dario Argento.

Morales manages to build up tension until the identity of the killer is finally revealed, and then, remarkably enough, he still manages to maintain the suspense. There are some strong moments that may cause some in the audience to wince to look away. Cinematographer Óscar Faura (The Orphanage, The Machinist, etc) uses some neat visual tricks to suggest Julia’s gradual loss of vision. Much of the action unfolds from Julia’s perspective, and so these effects are unsettling and enable the audience to feel her sense of helplessness. He also uses light, shadows, and darkness to add a sense of impending horror to the material.

As the tormented heroine, Rueda is put through the wringer, both emotionally and physically here, but she brings a strength and resilience to her performance. Homar gives solid support as her husband.

However, at times the succession of cliches becomes a bit overwhelming. Of course, there are a number of questions –why does Julia leave the hospital so soon after surgery? Why does she return to the house where nasty things have happened? For the film to succeed it demands a suspension of disbelief, and many in the audience will be willing to go along with its conceit.



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