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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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…