Julia's Eyes (UK - BD RB)
Marcus thinks there's an invisible man in the corner while he writes this review
Opening with the suspicious suicide of Sara (Belén Rueda), a blind woman who lives alone yet seems to have someone else with her in the house. After Sara’s death her sister Julia (also played by Belén Rueda) arrives and immediately finds her twin sister's death suspicious. Hearing stories of a secret boyfriend and having a sense someone may be following her as well, the stress of the situation accelerates the degeneration in Julia’s own vision and the similarities in her and her sister’s situation grow more sinister.
Julia’s Eyes comes from the same producers (and star) of The Orphanage and from the first scene you immediately feel the steady hands at play with this suspense filled drama. Belén Rueda provides another central performance that brings more to the genre than you’d expect and all this combined with a mystery that just keeps on adding layers makes this a creepy little tale to unravel.
A whole host of visual tricks are used to sell the fear of Julia going blind which sell the simplicity of the differences between light and darkness, like powercuts, moons disappearing behind clouds. In this way, Julia’s Eyes gets you wrapped in the situation expertly. This balanced with the drama of Julia’s increasing blindenss (using a very effective technique to depict cloudy vision) the scares feel pretty genuine as opposed to cheap.
This being a mystery, going into much more detail wouldn’t be all that fair to new viewers but what I will say is that like The Orphanage before it, Julia’s Eyes winds up being more of a thriller than a horror and it wears its emotional elements as proudly as its scarier elements. This one’s all about suspense and feeling creeped out. The techniques for showing Julia’s blindness are proper creepy. Not seeing elements like faces, what other people are doing and hearing things you know must be important but not having the details really puts you in Julia’s shoes and makes for great suspense. There’s not much in the way of gore (beyond a couple of blood soaked knife scenes and a wince inducing needle going into an eye - ouch), this is all about the scariness of a situation as opposed to running away from killers all the time.
For me, I wouldn’t say this was as good as movie as The Orphanage and it was really down to the last thirty minutes or so of Julia’s Eyes feeling like all the piling of mystery bailed out to a pretty straight forward wrap up. That’s not to say the climax isn’t handled well but it all felt a little bit simple when compared to build up. Elements got too repetitive and a little predictable because of it and even though an explanation of story was provided the sort-of-but-not-really-all-that-supernatural element of “The Invisible Man” felt a little bit undercooked to satisfy me fully.
Julia’s Eyes is a little stark and very happy with its cool appearance. Grey-blue tones cover the majority of the movie and it's really only the natural skin tones and Julia’s blonde hair that comes with any real brightness. There's also an intentional darkness to many of the shots to depict Julia’s lack of full vision but unfortunately a lot of the darker elements are quite blue and rarely pure black. I wouldn’t say there is a great deal of grain here but there's a grittiness to the visuals. Edges are sharp but they don’t always feel clean and it's really only the close ups that show off textures and fine details. At times every thread of Julia’s eye bandage can be seen but this isn't always consistent. Same can be said for Julia’s husband’s stubble and many other elements. This is a solid transfer but not one that really leaps off the screen.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track for Julia’s Eyes is a lot about building tension. Dialogue sticks to being strong and central but the score slowly grows from the front speakers to filling the room with the rears. The sharper scarier elements are very strong but it's the slow burning build ups to creep you out that are the most impressive.
Sound effects also play a big part and can be quite well placed. Sliding chairs, creaking floorboards, and voices are used well. There’s a strong downpour of rain that makes the scene feel even more aggressive later in the movie and the sound of a camera’s flash is used very effectively in the climax to add a lot of weight to the silence between the visuals.
With nothing much here but interview we start with a brief chat with Guillem Morales (02:11 SD) which is a quick synopsis of the story and how good it was to work with Belen Rueda. The next interview is with Rueda herself (02:05 SD) where she explains what brought her to the project. The interview with Lluis Homar (00:48 SD) is over before you know it and finally the chat with Guillermo Del Toro (02:12) gives a great overview to what he wanted the project to achieve and why he produced the flick.
The B-Roll footage (07:22 SD) is a brief look at some of the set ups for the film and finally the trailer (02:26 HD) wraps up a pretty thin set of extras.
With a great combination of creeps, scares and mystery, Julia's Eyes is another solid Spanish made scare inducer. The central performance from Belén Rueda makes the dramatic core strong enough to work on that level alone so even when the scary elements do go a little down the routine route I found myself caring enough about her fate to let it slide. The disc looks and sounds good without showing off but the extras are a little thin on the ground so thats a bit of a let down.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 12th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spansih, LPCM 2.0 Stereo Spanish
Extras: Interviews, B-Roll, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Guillem Morales
Cast: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Julia Gutiérrez Caba
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 117 minutes
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