Starring: Belen Rueda, Lluis Homar, Pablo Derqui, Francesc Orella, Joan Dalmau

Director: Guillen Morales

Writer: Guillen Morales

Cinematography: Oscar Faura

Original Score: Fernando Velasquez

Running Time: 112 Mins.

Very few horror films manage to shock, let alone scare, in this day and age of over-saturated torture porn and the never-ending flow of remakes, both of these facts point to a severe lack of ambition and originality particularly in the Hollywood production line. So thank heavens for Spanish horror and in particular Guillermo Del Toro and the new talent he nurtures, thanks to the bankability of that man’s name we see the horror gems such as The Orphanage and now Julia’s Eyes make it to our screens…sadly the chances are that these are films that would otherwise be overlooked. 

Del Toro himself started this latin trend, The Devils Backbone and Cronos set the tone, cemented with the excellent Pan’s Labyrinth, but it was the orphanage that really scared of all of those films, and that is the one that the man himself didn’t direct! So to Julia’s Eyes, as I have already mentioned it is another fine addition to that roster though it really is its own beast. Rather than simply repeating formula for another supernatural spook-fest as would, and could, have been the easy path instead we have a film that genre-bends, a psychological character study, medical tropes are thrown in along with out-and-out slasher elements, in fact this is the closest we have had to an original slasher film in years.

However do not let that label deceive, this is a complex film in that the plot unfurls to reveal more and more in its intriguing mystery. As I would always incur, the subtitles are beneficial and lend themselves to having the viewer concentrate more than they would have done otherwise making for an immersive shocker. Of course it helps to have an actress as good as Belen Rueda in the dual role of Sara and the twin sister Julia, Sara dies in the film’s opening throes in a tense scene that very much sets the mood, dimly lit and evoking a sense of the unknown and the heightened senses that come about from the loss of sight, Sara is blind and can see a figure in the shadows…is it ghost, man or something else?

The mystery is kept up for the most-part until a surprising twist that turns the film into something a tad more generic, it suffers a little for this…I’d have liked everything to remain a little more supernatural, but the steps it takes aren’t unbelievable and does admittedly ground the proceedings in a more common “reality”. The real winner though is the film up to this reveal, the sense of dread is palpable and there are some ingenious kills, but it is the way in which we literally take the point of view of Julia and her quickly deteriorating eyesight, images flash in and out, sounds crash loudly giving us a few cheap jumps that add to rather than detract from the overall experience.

The main point though is that, as with The Orphanage, this is a film that gets under your skin, it borrows from many other (admittedly better) films but wraps itself up into such a tense and atmospheric package that any misgivings are either easily missed or overlooked, the finale may lack the scares of what can before but it is saying something that you leave feeling chilled rather than placated by another great Spanish horror opus.

VERDICT

Julia’s Eyes keeps up the great wave of Spanish chillers bringing a slasher movie aesthetic into the mix, yes it loses it’s way a touch towards the end but not anywhere near enough to detract from the creepy whole.

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Guillermo del Toro, not content with scaring a generation of adults with films like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, is set to bring his unique brand of twisted magic to Disney, as the “creative force” behind a new Disney label called Disney Double Dare You.

The idea is that the brand will create scary animated fare, rather than the traditional princesses and talking animals – although we’re guessing that’s Corpse Bride scary rather than Last House on the Left scary.

The first film from the label is going to be Trollhunters, based on a Del Toro idea. The world’s busiest filmmaker said that all the Disney Double Dare You projects would include a common trait (though he wouldn’t say what that is) and told audiences at Disney’s D23 event that he was inspired by a long-ago visit to Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, and the immersive, scary experience that that provided.

“I love to take audiences into fantastic new worlds and provide them with some anxious moments in the process,” Del Toro said. “It is part of the Disney canon to create thrilling, unforgettable moments and villains in all their classic films. It is my privilege for Double Dare You to continue in this tradition.”

No word yet on when we can expect to see Trollhunters and the rest, but if you hear small children screaming in terror, that’ll probably be the sign that they’ve arrived.

Larry Fessenden (this man here with the abnormally large forehead!)  has signed on to direct the New Line’s remake of The Orphanage, the Guillermo del Toro-produced Spanish horror that scared the bejeezus out of us in 2007.

Fessenden has made a name for himself turning out effective low-budget horrors like Wendigo and The Last Winter– effective enough to catch the eye of del Toro, who returns to produce the remake and who will co-write the script with his director.

The Spanish-language version of The Orphanage was a truly effective frightener telling the tale of a woman who returns with her family to the now derelict institution where she was raised to find it stalked by a terrifying figure from her past.

In case you’re dreading another sub-par English-language remake, del Toro’s involvement should alleviate some of your worries. After all, his selection of the then little-known Juan Antonio Bayona for the original paid rich dividends with a beautiful-looking and, at times, terrifying horror. Here’s hoping he finds time to oversee production while he’s beavering away on The Hobbit.

With a half-decent script and a bit of visual flair from Fessenden, this could be a more-than-serviceable remake and transplant the original’s shocks into an American context? What do you think? Will it come close to matching the original? Post your thoughts below…

We haven’t heard much from Guillermo del Toro recently, with the great director keeping his head down at the moment so he can work hard on his forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit. But he showed up in LA last night at a special do to launch the Region 1 DVD of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and our pals at Comingsoon.net grabbed him for a few quick words on the status of his take on Tolkien.

“Literally, like every week, what you discover writing the two movies, writing the two stories, it changes. So, every week there’s a discovery, and anything we say this week would be contradicted next week,” he said.

Ah. But he was confident enough to speak about some of his plans for the movie’s effects, which will see an increase in practical elements. “We want to do a muscle-driven, radio-controlled suits for a couple of things,” he revealed. “I already started that with Wink [the giant ape-like troll] in Hellboy II. Wink was pushed as far as we could within the time limits and the budget limits of the movie and we’re going to take what we learned and apply it.”

Del Toro also talked about what he sees as the single biggest challenge of The Hobbit: the villainous dragon, Smaug. “Smaug is the creature in The Hobbit,” he said. “The way Tolkien wrote it, already, is magnificent. It’s already a fantastic character. In my mind, what we’re going to attempt on the design of this creature and the creation of this creature needs to push the envelope beyond anything you’ve ever seen on that kind of creature.”

Such as…?

“Smaug has certain characteristics that make him unique already. I am bursting at the seams about spilling the beans, but I won’t because I would be shot.”

Well, we don’t want that, Guillermo. To read more from the Mexican director on the current status of casting and whatnot, do pop over to Comingsoon and tell ‘em Movieblaze says hello. They’ll know what it means.

The filmmaker formally known as Guillermo del Toro, now referred to ubiquitously as Guillermo “I’m making The Motherf****** ‘Hobbit'” del Toro, appeared last night at the Director’s

Guild of America in midtown Manhattan as part of The New Yorker Festival series of talks. During the conversation with New Yorker staff writer Daniel Zalewski, the director of such modern genre masterpieces as Pan’s Labyrinth and the “Hellboy” series talked up some of his future projects, including the aforementioned two-film Tolkien adaptation as well as a new version of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Currently at the beginning of pre-production on The Hobbit, del Toro discussed his process of gathering ideas, or “feeding his brain,” in order to conceptualize his own vision of Middle Earth unique from where Peter Jackson went in his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy…

“I find you have to discipline yourself to write in the morning, and then watch and read in the afternoons stuff that seems relevant, even in a tangential way. For example, reading or watching World War I documentaries or books that I think inform ‘The Hobbit,’ strangely enough, because I believe it is a book born out of Tolkien’s generation’s experience with World War I and the disappointment of being in that field and seeing all those values kind of collapse. I think it’s a turning point that you need to familiarize yourself with. I’m starting. Peter Jackson is such a fan of that historical moment and obsessive collector of World War I memorabilia, and he owns several genuine, life-size working reproductions of planes, tanks, cannons, ships! He has the perfect obsessive reproductions of uniforms of that time for armies of about 120 soldiers… each. I asked him which books he recommended… because I wouldn’t be watching ‘Krull’ or ‘The Dark Crystal,’ I need to find my OWN way into the story. That’s the same way I did ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ or ‘Devil’s Backbone,’ by watching stuff you wouldn’t think about.

“All my life I’ve been fascinated by dragons. I was born under the Chinese sign of The Dragon. All my life I’m collecting dragons. It’s such a powerful symbol, and in the context of ‘The Hobbit’ it is used to cast its shadow through the entire narrative. Essentially, Smaug represents so many things: greed, pride… he’s ‘the Magnificent,’ after all. The way his shadow is cast in the narrative you cannot then show it and have it be one thing, he has to be the embodiment of all those things. He’s one of the few dragons that will have enormous scenes with lines. He has some of the most beautiful dialogues in those scenes! The design, I’m pretty sure that will be the last design we will sign off on, and the first design we have attempted. It is certainly a matter of turning every stone before figuring out what he looks like, because what he looks like will tell you what he is.”

After he completes his work on the two “Hobbit” films in 2012, the prodigiously optimistic del Toro has a whole slew of projects to keep him occupied until 2017, including a new version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, his long-delayed Lovecraft adaptation At the Mountains of Madness, a just-announced trilogy of vampire novels (the first of which he claims is already written), and his own version of Frankenstein.

Del Toro is an acknowledged fan of “Frankenstein.” He has busts of Boris Karloff as the monster in his house. One of his biggest filmic influences, the 1973 Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive, revolves around a showing of the classic Universal Frankenstein. He has raved about Bernie Wrightson’s illustrated version and the original Frank Darabont script eventually filmed as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Kenneth Branagh in ’94 and all-but-disowned by Darabont. Del Toro’s version, however, sounds decidedly different…

I’m not doing ‘Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.’ I’m doing an adventure story that involves the creature. I cannot say much, but it’s not the central creation story, I’m not worried about that. The fact is I’ve been dreaming of doing a ‘Frankenstein movie since I was a child. The one thing I can promise is, compared to Kenneth Branagh, I will not appear shirtless in the movie. When pressed by a fan during the Q & A regarding the Wargs’ appearance in The Hobbit, del Toro seemed like a child dying to spill the big secret he has but forcing himself to show restraint, joking that “Warner Brothers has a sniper right here in the theatre.”

“There will be different sensibilities involved in this movie than there were in the original trilogy. First of all, because we have the travelogues in ‘The Hobbit’ which goes to places and variations on races that were not addressed in the trilogy. My belief on the ‘Wargs’ issue is that the classical incarnation of the demonic wolf in Nordic mythology is not a hyena-shaped creature. It is a wolf. The archetype is a wolf, so we’re going to go back to the slender, archetypical wolf that is, I think, the inspiration for Tolkien. Listen… if we were having a drink two years from now I would spill the beans, because I’m a pretty easy guy about spilling the beans, but I can’t in this instance I can’t because it’s three years from now… believe me, I am jumping up-and-down inside this fat body.

For a long while now, a revamped big-screen version of Tarzan had been near the top of Guillermo del Toro’s increasingly crowded to-do list. In fact, he had even engaged the services of screenwriter John Colley on the movie. But now del Toro is fully preoccupied with The Hobbit, producer Jerry Weintraub is pressing ahead with the movie anyway, and he’s already zeroed in on the director he wants to replace del Toro.

Stephen Sommers.

Yes, it seems that once Sommers finishes work on his current movie, next summer’s G.I. Joe, he’ll swing across to Warner Bros. and begin work on bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Lord of the Apes back to the big screen. Sommers will co-write the screenplay with Stuart Beattie (who wrote G.I. Joe) .

Of course, there will be some internet fanboys bemoaning this choice, but we’d advise them to hold fire. After all, Del Toro told Empire Magazine last year that he hoped to make his take on the Burroughs’ source material very pulpy – and if there’s one thing at which the director of Deep Rising excels, it’s pulp. So let’s hope he’s going to adhere to del Toro’s preference for pulp.

Furthermore, G.I. Joe looks like it should be a blast – and it can only be a good sign that he is so keen to reteam with Beattie. So perhaps Sommers has his creative mojo back after the disappointment of Van Helsing.

It’s all early days yet, so we won’t know anything for a while about Sommers’ plans. But I have many, many questions – for instance, is this going to be a Greystoke-style faithful adaptation of Burroughs’ Tarzan Of The Apes, or a reimagining of the character, a la Sommers’ remodelling of The Mummy franchise?

Starring: Ron Perlman, Luke Goss, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Seth McFarlane

Director: Guillermo Del Toro

Screenplay: Guillermo Del Toro

Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro

Original Score: Danny Elfman

Running Time: 120 mins.

Guillermo Del Toro, a director that seemingly comes from the “one for you, one for me”, school of direction, splitting his time between smaller more personal projects (The Devils Backbone, and most recently Pans Labyrinth) and bigger budget ‘Hollywood’ films (Mimic and Blade 2). With the exception of Mimic, which was a bit of a disaster, all of Del Toro’s films have gained a lot of critical acclaim, and quite rightly so he seems to have such a good eye for fantastical imagery and a real knack for the highest rate of storytelling. So all of this past in mind where exactly does Hellboy II: The Golden Army fit into his repertoire? The answer is, everywhere!

He has hit that perfect balance between what he loves as a film-maker and what the audience loves to see, combining his storytelling and vivid imagination to create a summer blockbuster that has evidently been hand crafted with great love and affection by all involved, Fantastic 4 this is not! The original Hellboy, also directed by Del Toro and starring the same cast, was a sufficient and faithful enough adaptation, and despite being very enjoyable, with a standout turn by Ron Perlman as the titular Hellboy, it was seriously lacking in a number of areas. It seemed that Del Toro’s visions had been reined in somewhat by the studio and the brief running time left many side characters fighting for screen time leaving us with an especially weak villain, on top of this there were no standout action scenes, a real issue in what was meant to be a set piece driven comic book adaptation. In fact, given the modest box office success, it’s surprising Del Toro was rewarded the chance to make another, so out went Columbia Tristar and in came Universal offering only the same budget as was estimated for Hellboy 1 (highly unusual when making a sequel). However the difference is this time Del Toro’s reins have been removed, this is his cut of the film, with his vision and imagination on full speed ahead.

In some ways this could be seen a slight reboot of the franchise, nothing would be lost through being a Hellboy virgin upon watching it, and the only through line from the past film is the love story between Selma Blair’s Liz Sherman and Hellboy, though what happened last time round seems almost redundant. The ‘pedestrian’ character Meyers from the last film is explained away through one line of dialogue leaving no loose ends to tie up starting the story afresh.

Beginning with a fantastic fairytale played out through marionettes we discover that there is a pact between the fairytale world and our own, so that we may all live in peace. Us sticking to our world and the fairytale creatures to theirs. However the fairy prince Nuada is not happy with this pact and feels they should have the right to rule where they wish, overthrowing his father and seeking to destroy the world of humans, using the one thing that can eliminate all in its way, The Golden Army. To say any more would be to spoil the subtle twists and turns, but needless to say it builds to a climatic fight between the forces of good and evil.

The strengths of Hellboy II are primarily in its vision and the performances, Ron Perlman once again shines giving Hellboy true pathos, making him at once funny, angry, driven and very childlike in some ways, and in a trait all the main characters share, conflicted. This is a film of conflicts drawing you to think rather than just take in what you see only to forget it two minutes later, in the decisions the characters make, so to do you in deciding what is morally right and wrong, in much the same way as this summers other excellent blockbuster, The Dark Knight, did.

One thing Hellboy does have over that certain Dark Knight is a wonderful sense of humour, one scene in particular stands out and had me in stitches, it really gives this assortment of freakish looking characters more humanity than many a human in most other films! The addition of Johann Krauss is also a welcome one, making something that is essentially a wisp of mist into a fully rounded ‘person’, through Seth Macfarlanes brilliant voice work. Of the other new additions villain of the piece, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) shines, makes his character very sympathetic to the point where you may well want to root for him in his quest, he isn’t so much evil as feeling betrayed.

So what of the weakness is Hellboy 1, a lack of action, while he hasn’t fully remedied this problem it’s certainly a huge step in the right direction. The fight with a forest god in the middle of the city is amazing and the snippets in the trailer really do this scene no justice, to see the foliage drop from the creature onto the city is absolutely stunning. Both thrilling, funny and on a grand scale, this is what Hellboy needed. The problem is that comes a little over an hour in, leaving a lacklustre final fight with the Golden Army disappointing rather than devastating. That said the lead up to the final fight is fantasy film at its finest, the rock creature in Ireland and the Angel Of Death (looking like something straight out of Pans Labyrinth) are worth the admission price alone!

VERDICT

The run of excellent comic-book adaptations continues, a very different beast to The Dark Knight and injected with Del Toro’s full imagination. The finest fantasy film you’re likely to see in many a year, despite a lack of good action scenes there is so much more here to distract from this small misgiving. Character, story, and a film stuffed with the greatest array and characterisation of creatures since we visited Middle Earth….funny that! Lets hope that this does well enough to warrant a third, though god knows whats left in Del Toro’s imagination to show!