Guillem Morales' latest feature is a worthy addition to the growing canon of top-notch Spanish suspense flicks
In recent years there has been a plethora of fine horror/thriller films coming out of Spain. The likes of Pan’s Labyrinth, REC and The Orphanage have captivated audiences across the globe.
Julia’s Eyes, directed by Guillem Morales and produced by the brilliant Guillermo del Toro, manages to put a new spin on the Spanish horror flick without deviating too far from the style or mood of those films previously mentioned.
The film begins abruptly. Sara, a blind woman, is tormented by an unseen stranger. A storm whips and cracks outside her house, while inside ‘The Look of Love’ by Dusty Springfield floats wistfully from the stereo.
Sara runs to her basement, where a little chair awaits her. She climbs on top and puts on a ready-made noose as a camera flashes violently in the corner. 'You're there,' she says. 'And you're watching me.' Her unwanted visitor kicks the chair out from under her.
When Julia, Sara’s sister, arrives at the house the next day, it appears to be a simple case of suicide. Despite her husband Isaac’s arguments, however, Julia - who suffers from the same degenerative condition that stole her sister’s eyesight - refuses to believe that Sara died by her own hand.
After an invisible presence touches Julia on the shoulder at her sister’s graveside the story becomes a chillingly surreal quest for the truth. The subsequent meandering investigation is reflected neatly by Julia’s own declining eyesight. She hopes for clarity.
The action is constantly progressed by the ‘unseen’; the ‘invisible man’ carries the action forward. The excellent cinematography by Óscar Faura and the eerie score by Fernando Velázquez lend a claustrophobic feel to the film. Morales knows how to construct a credible slow-burning psycho-thriller.
However, like other recent examples of the genre (The Resident, in particular) Morales' cleverly constructed plot can be a touch convoluted. The series of endless twists and turns can be confusing, and leave this viewer perplexed at times.
Neverthless, Julia’s Eyes is still an effective thriller which, like its Spanish predecessors, is stylistically impressive. Fans of the genre will no doubt be left hungry for more from the dynamic duo of Morales and del Toro.
Julia’s Eyes is showing at the Queen's Film Theatre from Friday June 10-23.