A very well made chiller in the stalk ‘n’ slash tradition
In addition to directing visionary adult horror-fantasies (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth) and outstanding Hollywood blockbusters (Hellboy and its sequel), Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is also carving a second career for himself as a producer of (not only but most noticeably) quality Spanish chillers. In 2007, he put his name and industry clout behind the excellent ghost story The Orphanage; four years on ‘Guillermo del Toro presents’ this similarly well-conceived and smartly executed thriller that may or may not boast a supernatural twist.
It’s the story of a woman named Julia (beautiful Belén Rueda, star of The Orphanage) who is slowly losing her sight. As the film opens Julia can still see, but the apparent suicide of her already blind twin sister Sara, and a growing conviction that her sibling may have been murdered, puts Julia under enough emotional strain to advance the deterioration of her vision. To say much more would be giving too much of the cleverly plotted mystery away.
Julia’s Eyes is, essentially, a very well made chiller in the stalk ‘n’ slash tradition. But what elevates it above less eye-catching entries in that horror sub-genre, is the way in which director and co-writer Guillem Morales (who previously made the intriguing psycho-drama The Uncertain Guest) plays with the idea of seeing and not seeing. Most of the film’s numerous suspense sequences require the viewer to peer and squint at a darkened screen and otherwise obfuscated images. And as Julia goes blind the faces of the people around her that she can no longer see are also hidden from us. These are relatively simple stylistic tricks, but they’re very effective. Finally, Julia’s nemesis, ie the killer, is an entity that does not like to be beheld and cannot easily be seen. Having a protagonist that can barely see and an antagonist that can barely been seen makes the climactic murderous game of cat-and-mouse really quite special.
Out now on selected release.