Guillermo Del Toro is not a lazy man. In addition to directing seven movies, he’s written a trilogy of vampire novels (The Strain trilogy), and is currently working on a video game called Insane, due for release in 2013.
While he hasn’t directed a movie since 2008’s Hellboy sequel, he’s still been active in the movie world. He was brought on board by Peter Jackson to direct the much-anticipated Hobbit adaptation, but grew frustrated by delays to shooting the movie and left the project. He suffered another setback when his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was rejected by studios.
But he has still found time to help out Spanish director Guillem Morales by producing Los Ojos De Julia, or Julia’s Eyes. Julia’s Eyes is a horror-thriller starring Belén Rueda (who also starred in The Orphanage, again produced by Del Toro) as the titular Julia.
The movie begins with the death of Julia’s twin sister, Sara. Alone in her home, she appears to be taunted by an unseen adversary. She retreats to the basement, seemingly to hang herself. Before she does so, she cries out to the unseen person, and then suddenly has a stool kicked out from under her. Meanwhile, Julia collapses at work, apparently choking and suddenly has an urge to contact her sister. This prompts her to travel with her husband Isaac (played by Lluís Homar who you may recognize from another Spanish movie, Fermat’s Room) to visit her sister. Isaac discovers Sara’s body, but police can find no evidence of forced entry into the house.
Later at the funeral, Julia and Isaac meet one of Sara’s neighbours, and as Julia sits alone at Sara’s grave, she feels a hand on her shoulder. She believes it is that of her husband, but when she sees him elsewhere, she turns to find no-one behind her. She starts to believe that someone is following her, and that he killed her sister, but Isaac refuses to believe her and the two start to drift apart.
As Julia searches for clues, her eyesight fades, and eventually she is forced to have a transplant operation. At first Julia is determined to recover alone, and moves into her sister’s house. But as she suffers nightmares and feels increasingly scared and alone, she agrees to be visited by a care worker once a week. During this part of the film, director Morales chooses never to show the faces of anyone who interacts with Julia. This increases the tension of the movie, and makes it difficult to know who Julia can trust.
In the final part of the movie, Julia regains her eyesight and discovers the truth, leading to a tense and well executed finale where Julia goes up against the invisible man that has tormented her for so long.
Like The Orphanage, Julia’s Eyes is a well directed and well written horror movie, one that stands apart from the torture-porn and excessively bloody violence that seems to have dominated American horror in recent years.