When you stamp Mexican director and producer Guillermo del Toro’s name on a movie its appeal is sure to increase considerably. The visionary master of the gothic, fantastical and downright eerie lent his production hand to this atmospheric Spanish horror/thriller, reigning in his usual ghoulish visuals to help create something more of a psychological (yet at times shocking) affair.
Sara is blind, in her house during a power cut, visibly distressed and aggressively talking to an invisible man – or is he invisible? When she is found hanged in her basement, her twin sister Julia, who suffers from the same degenerative sight defect, is immediately sceptical that her sister’s death was suicide and goes on a dangerous quest to get to the bottom of her death. She soon finds herself being stalked by an evasive stranger with a camera, a shadow that always seems to be one step ahead of her. Unfortunately nobody believes Julia’s urgent insistence that there was someone else involved in Sara’s death – she is very much on her own and time is running out as her eyesight rapidly deteriorates and the shadow starts to become a very real threat.
Julia’s Eyes begins with a punch, an opening scene that captivates the viewer with a symphony of intrigue. It’s an irresistible premise, straddling the genres of horror and thriller, offering the promise of an uneven road encumbered with multiple twists and turns. Unfortunately the movie fails to deliver on the promise of the first thirty minutes, it soon begins to unravel as it loses the run of itself and by the closing scenes it appears to have morphed into somewhat of a mundane thriller.
That said the movie addresses a haunting concept: the fear of going blind, of losing independence and worst of all, of losing control. The director adapts some interesting and effective visual techniques in an effort to shift our perspective to that of Julia’s – from the moment her vision begins to fade we no longer see the faces of the people she encounters, we only glimpse the backs of heads or shots from the neck down which is both frustrating and wonderfully effective – suddenly the facial expressions we rely so heavily on to assess a character or a situation are withheld from us. We can begin to understand Julia’s frustration, her helplessness, her reliance on sound, sense and increasingly, on instinct. It certainly is an intriguing premise but too much emphasis lies on creating jumps and shock tactics to give the story breathing space and allow the narrative to come to fruition.
This was a slightly disappointing movie given its impressive beginning and its renowned producer but it is certainly worth the watch nonetheless.
Julia’s Eyes is released on DVD on 12th September
- Format: PAL
- Language Spanish
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: 12th Sep 2011