Review: Julia’s Eyes

For the most part Spanish horror films are absolutely terrifying, especially Spanish ghost stories. 2007’s THE ORPHANAGE was a real sucker punch of a ghost film. Upon watching it for my first time it sent more than just a few shivers down my spine and I know many colleagues who down right refuse to watch it again as it scared them that much. Just like THE ORPHANAGE, JULIA’S EYES has the name of heavyweight Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro behind it as its driving force. However, it’s going to take more than Del Toro’s name to save a horror film that was so boring and devoid of genuine scares that I was eagerly consulting my watch to see how much longer I had to wait before I could leave.

The film’s premise is incredibly simple. Julia’s sister Sara (who has gone blind due to an eye condition) commits suicide under inscrutable circumstance, leaving Julia to attempt to prove Sara’s death as something more substantial than suicide and in the process unearth an incredibly sinister secret that Sara was concealing.

Through the duration of the film we see Julia slowly lose her vision and sink into the depths of darkness. The film attempts to draw its scares from the premise of being blind with a killer looking to kill you round every corner, on paper it sounds like it could be a potential winner but upon its execution, it’s bulky and lethargic. Director Guillem Morales had so many good ideas that he couldn’t bring himself to let any of them go and instead forced them all unnecessarily into this film.

Morales’ use of mise-en-scene revels in the obvious as opposed to intricacies. It’s incredibly obvious to pin point the killer way before they are revealed due to Morales’ distinct lack of subtly in the cinematography department. Similarly Julia’s relationship with her husband Isaac (one could be forgiven for mistaking Isaac for Julia’s father as he looks twice her age) feels under developed and weighty. Isaac feels dispensable as a character and it does not matter if he was written into the script in the first place as the film could have easily progressed with or without him.

Similarly composer Fernando Velázquez also missed the memo on subtlety and his score takes a SHUTTER ISLAND approach to scores – by that I mean big booming drums and crashes creating as much noise as humanly possible every time the film attempts to scare you. All it does is distract you from the film at hand and ends up being counter productive to the horror of the film.

However, there are moments that are incredibly uncomfortable for the audience. The most noticeable is an extended point of view sequence from the eyes of the killer whilst he murders someone and makes his escape whilst Julia and the police walk obliviously past them. It’s uncomfortable as you feel as if you’re participating in something you don’t particularly want to be involved in. Also the use of an extended strobe light sequence (reminiscent of the one in THE SILENT HOUSE) isn’t only a visual treat but one of the more haunting moments of the film.

Overall, JULIA’S EYES is not only a bland film, but one that lacks any sort of subtlety. The shock tactics are so tried and tested, you can see them from a mile off. There’s a serious issue with the pacing and by that I mean there is none. The film feels way over two hours when it’s merely 100 minutes long. This is Morales’ fault as everything is forced in until the fill is stuffed and in need of a good trim. Some of the nicer ideas never really get developed and for a horror film, it really isn’t scary.

15 certificate

Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Jay Crosbie (May ’11)
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