Spanish language horror has been taken up a notch in recent years with the excellent [Rec] and suitably creepy The Orphanage dragging the average up considerably. Julia’s Eyes is the latest offering to arrive on the scenes and while comparisons with The Orphanage are inevitable (it also features Belén Rueda in the lead role as well as Guillermo Del Toro as producer), it’s not quite up to the same standard.
Rueda plays a woman suffering from a degenerative eye disease. After discovering that her blind twin sister (who has succumbed much earlier to the same disease) has hanged herself in the basement of her apartment supposedly motivated by the failure of a recent eye operation, Julia suspects foul play. Refusing to believe the official verdict of suicide, she begins an investigation to find her sister’s killer despite the protestations of her psychologist husband, who warns her that any stress could hasten the onset of her own blindness.
Rueda is excellent and manages to strike a great balance between determination to find out the truth about her sister’s death and terrified vulnerability. Director Guillem Morales orchestrates some nice touches, particularly in the second half of the film where Julia loses her sight and the camera frames out everyone’s faces, forcing the audience to not only see things from her perspective but to immediately suspect anyone she meets – it’s a technique which ensures that tensions are kept high.
But having built up a suitable atmosphere for creepy horror, it’s wasted on too many cheap shocks and “it’s behind you” moments which quickly get repetitive; as a result it’s never quite as frightening as it should be. Julia also makes some baffling decisions which would only make sense in the context of a film. Why, for example, would you choose to recover from a serious eye operation in the same house that you’re convinced your sister was killed and in which you suspect the killer still lurks?
It’s also way too long – almost every scene lingers a minute or two longer than it should do and consequently it clocks in at a flabby 112 minutes when it could easily have been improved by shaving it down to a trim 90.
Nevertheless, Julia’s Eyes is a competent thriller featuring a strong central performance from Belén Rueda Rueda which serves to make it serviceable but far from visionary experience.