We were all very impressed by The Orphanage, the excellent Spanish ghost story from 2007. Here’s another Hispanic horror presented by producer Guillermo Del Toro, and it even boasts the star of the prior film, Belén Rueda. But how similar is it, and does it match up?
After her twin sister Sara commits suicide, Julia (Rueda) and her husband Isaac (Lluís Homar) travel to her house. The police see no evidence of foul play, as Sara was depressed over the loss of her eyesight, but Julia, who is suffering from the same degenerative condition, is unconvinced. She starts to investigate, but can she uncover the truth before she loses her ability to see?
Julia’s Eyes is certainly a spooky film, but to talk about its similarities and differences to The Orphanage would be to give away much of the story. It’s also a film that deserves to be considered on its own merits. After a skin-crawling opening sequence the film takes its time slowly unwrapping the mystery (although it’s not exactly a massive head-scratcher). Writer/director Guillem Morales and co-writer Oriol Paulo take the time to make sure that the audience care about Julia so that, as she’s plunged deeper and deeper into the darkness, we’re right there with her.
Rueda’s performance is terrific. Beyond being driven to find her sister’s killer, Julia is attempting to prepare herself for the blindness that gets closer as she pushes herself harder. As she suffers further and further setbacks, Rueda comes into her own as Julia reaches her breaking point. The rest of the cast is solid, but she is the star of the show.
Blindness is hardly an innovation in the horror-thriller genre (check out the Audrey Hepburn/Alan Arkin classic Wait Until Dark if you haven’t seen it), but Morales makes it his own. The camera settles on Julia, and as her world goes dark everything else becomes blurry and obscured. When the inevitable twist happens, it’s a little predictable but the finale is very effectively shot and it’s so well acted that any concerns are niggling at best.
Julia’s Eyes hits our screens shortly after the bombastic, crowd-pleasing Insidious, and this Spanish horror should appeal to anyone who prefers their horror a little more refined and restrained. It’s nicely paced, sparingly gory, and packs a real emotional punch.
A very good, very creepy tale that boasts a star turn from Belén Rueda and wonderful cinematography.