Thursday, May 5, 2011

Julia's Eyes (Los ojos de Julia) (2010)

See No Evil

First, you have a new Spanish horror film; I'm already down. Next, slap on Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos) as a producer; I'm ready to party. Finally, have Belén Rueda (The Orphange) act as your lead; I had better be on the guest list. Combine the three and you have Guillem Morales' horror/thriller Julia's Eyes (Los ojos de Julia), a nerve-wracking murder mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat until a weak third act leaves you with more questions than answers.

Rueda plays the role of twin sisters Sara and Julia who both suffer from a degenerative eye disease. The film opens with Sara (who is now completely blind) fearing for her life as she tries to avoid a mysterious intruder in her home. Thought she can't see or hear him, she senses he has followed her into the basement where she has prepared a noose to take her own life. Elsewhere, Julia collapses to the floor at work, feeling as though she was being suffocated. Sensing that her sister is in danger, Julia and her husband Isaac (Lluís Homar) make their way to Sara's house where they find her body hanging. Though the police believe it to be a suicide, Julia refuses to accept the theory, claiming that someone must have been in the house with her. With no evidence to prove her case, Julia sets out on a hunt to find her sister's killer before she completely loses her vision (which is rapidly deteriorating). Soon, Julia finds herself lost in a world of darkness, lies, and murder.

From the opening of the film to the halfway point, Julia's Eyes is a taught thriller with sophisticated jump scares and tense atmosphere. Julia endures many suspenseful chase scenes as she attempts to track down the killer, who appears to slip through the shadows undetected to everyone but her. There are also many terrifying moments that occur when Julia is instructed to wear bandages over her eyes for two weeks. This results in the audience not seeing the face of Julia's hospital aid or a little girl next door who may know something about Sara's death. The tension is increased to eleven here because we see just slightly more than Julia. Though we never see anyone's face, we know when someone else is in the house just moments before she does. It's a brilliant way to connect the viewer to the character and feel more in understanding her situation. We don't know who to trust anymore than she does. Another outstanding addition to the film is the fact that the sound level increases after Julia's eyes are bandaged. Every door slam or key chain jingle sounds ten times louder and even induces a few jumps because of it.

Belén Rueda is beautiful and amazing as she always is. The supporting cast is also excellent, especially the characters played by Homar and Pablo Derqui who acts as Julia's faceless caretaker, Iván. Regarding violence, there's only a small amount of gore in the film, but every scene is definitely over the top, including one scene that's probably one the hardest things to watch since the beginning of Un Chein Andalou. The score is lush and tense and the set designs are great. Basically everything in this movie is fantastic until you get to the ending.

Unfortunately, the ending of the film leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and while this isn't The Orphanage, it could've been a great thing to have a slasher-esque thriller that wrapped up everything nicely for the viewer. It's a shame because with the efforts of del Toro and Rueda behind the film, it seems a waste to let your script fizzle out in its final act and become a bit more standard horror fare with more confusion than answers, especially when everything preceding it was a pure adrenaline rush. Regardless, Julia's Eyes is definitely a film worth viewing, especially if you're a fan of Spanish horror. With this much talent backing it, you'd have to be blind not to see the appeal.

3.5/5 Stars

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