Spanish filmmaker Guillermo del Toro appears to have a lot of spare time on his hands at present. After ducking out of the director’s seat for the upcoming The Hobbit films (with Peter Jackson stepping in), del Toro seems to have taken it upon himself to single-handedly promote every Spanish supernatural horror released, in an attempt to discover the next Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The latest del Toro charity case is Guillem Morales’ frankly underwhelming Julia’s Eyes (2010).
Starring Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui, and Francesc Orella, Julia’s Eyes follows the story of the grief-stricken Julia (Rueda), who is recently coming to terms with the suicide of her twin sister Sara (also played by Rueda, but with a slightly different haircut). Both sisters suffer from a degenerative sight disease that left Sara blind before she took her own life, and is gradually creeping up on Julia. However, when it becomes apparent that her twin sister’s death may not have come at her own hand, Julia quickly descends into obsession, retracing Sara’s exact final movements in an attempt to root out the murderer before her own sight fails her forever.
An interesting premise then, and one with inherent links to the cinematic process as a whole (for a masterclass in the filmic manipulation of perception, look no further than Hitchock’s Rear Window ). However, Morales’ second directorial features is a disappointingly flat, highly predictable supernatural mystery that pails in comparison to contemporary Spanish horror’s finest efforts – namely del Toro’s Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Juan Antonio Bayona’s superbly spooky The Orphanage (2007).
Performances are more than adequate throughout, and Julia’s Eyes is, for the most part,well-shot (excluding perhaps the murky P.O.V shots meant to portray Julia’s failing sight). The real issue with the film lies in both its lack of innovation and succession of highly predictable plot twists. Anyone with even a partial knowledge of horror cinema or the ‘whodunnit’ sub-genre should be more than equipped to pick out Sara’s killer from a mile off, and following the ‘great unveil’ the film quickly descends into a by-the-number’s slasher movie.
Unfortunately for all involved, Julia’s Eyes falls into 21st century Spanish horror’s forgettable pile (alongside Gabe Ibáñez’ Hierro ) rather than establishing itself as a classic. The film’s promising premise never truly delivers the goods, and leaves one to ponder just why Del Toro doesn’t just return to what he knows best – directing – rather than continuing to champion inferior, derivative efforts.