From the very first scene of Julia's Eyes we are treated to the tremendous acting capabilities of Belen Rueda who also starred in the equally creepy Spanish horror film The Orphanage. She’s the kind of actor that can carry a horror film like this very well. She plays a twin, the first, Sara, is killed in the very first scene and once Julia discovers her sister’s corpse hanging from a rope in her basement, she is unconvinced that it was a suicide.
They both suffer from a degenerative eye disease and Julia’s condition worsens after her sister’s death. Determined in finding her murderer, she has to do so before she completely loses her sight.
Julia spends a large portion of the film with her eyes bandaged after undergoing an operation and this part of the film offers us the most terrifying scenes. There are many close-ups and most occurrences happen either off-screen or in the dark so it feels like we are as blind as Julia. A character’s face is not revealed until the end adding to the already unsettling atmosphere the film established.
The film makes very good use of sound and noise. From the gentle tinkle of a key ring to the shrill whistle of a kettle, the sound is incredibly crisp and sharp. The film shows us very little because we spend most of it in darkness or away from what we need to see but this is why it works because by denying us the image, it heightens our sense of hearing. We hear the unsettling sounds and our imaginations are left to run wild, forcing us to conjure images in our head that is more frightening than anything they can ever show.
I’m reluctant to classify this film as only a horror. I felt that the first half was a thriller with horror genre undertones while the second half is horror with thriller undertones. The film is very well paced and the gore and blood was left until the film reached its climax.
The film consists of many well-made scenes that are genuinely frightening – Julia circled by half-naked, blind women in a locker room that reminded me of the creatures in The Descent, or the final sequence involving two mugs of tea, a knife, a freezer compartment and the flashes of a camera. These all meld together to create a compelling film that was a good antidote to several other anti-climactic and underwhelming English speaking horror films. If you want to see a truly horrifying film experience, just make sure it’s either Japanese or Spanish.
Images courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment