Director: Guillem Morales
Stars: Belen Rueda, Lluis Homar, Pablo Derqui
Running time: 112 mins
“Presented” by Guillermo del Toro – usually shorthand for ‘he turned up on set and shook a few hands one day’ – Julia’s Eyes is actually directed by Guillem Morales. But enough about him, wasn’t Pan’s Labyrinth great? Julia’s Eyes isn’t even in the same league but still has a few thrills to boot. Julia (played by The Orphanage‘s Belen Rueda) suffers from a degenerative eye disease that her twin sister also has and it seemingly drives her to commit suicide in the opening scene. This doesn’t instill much confidence in Julia, whose a few stages behind her in the process. In the aftermath of her sister’s death Julia begins to suspect something more sinister than suicide. She becomes aware she is being followed but, of course, her husband doesn’t believe her so she has to sneak around while investigating. The trauma accelerates her sight loss and things become darker and bleaker than ever before.
A dozen chase sequences and a couple of murders later, a misguided choice (either that or a death wish), puts her back living alone in her sister’s big spooky house. Eyes bandaged after an operation, she’s now a vulnerable and fully blind woman, which turns out is exactly the staple diet of this crazed killer. A killer who lurks in the shadows and takes time in approaching. The scariest are always the ones who walk but don’t run.
It’s all a bit awkward and sad when she manages to cut her hands within the first five minutes on her own, but then there’s a slightly cringey montage of her finding her way around with the help of the drop-in carer. Things look more positive. Until she’s attacked and the tension floods back and stays until the end, which is still a long way away. The film starts to drag a bit and there are numerous times it could have ended but yet it picks itself up and keeps going. There’s fight in Julia yet.
The killer’s identity is revealed a little too soon, though it’s glaring obvious so there was probably no choice, and there’s an attempt to offer some kind of redemption for Julia with some sentiment about the universe that doesn’t quite fit. Julia’s Eyes is highly stylised with some genuinely scary moments like one scene demonstrates with effective use of flash photography and another is particularly gripping when Julia momentarily regains her sight but pretends not to while in the killer’s presence. Unfortunately blind people don’t fare well at all in this Spanish horror. There’s especially an insensitive portrayal of a group of half naked blind women in a locker room; appearing like a gaggle of witches, suspiciously sniffing the air, you half expect them to reveal square shaped feet and rip off their wigs.
In the end it’s all a bit too silly and very, very grim. You want to cry out ‘But wait! All of their lives have been ruined!’, but by this stage you’re too drained to even try.