Julia's Eyes (Los ojos de Julia) review (Blu-ray)

In recent years horror films seem to have fallen into one of several sub-genres. Teen slashers, often remakes (Friday the 13th); creepy thrillers that make you jump (Paranormal Activity); or gore-filled gorefests full of gore (Saw 27). So it's refreshing to see something that's a little bit jumpy, a tiny bit bloody but mainly disturbing and unsettling in a really gripping way.

Produced by Guillermo del Toro and written and directed by Guillem Morales, Julia's Eyes is a rarity in today's cinema - a mystery story. Maybe this sort of intricate plotting and imagination is beyond many writers or maybe it's just easier not to bother but either way they're thin on the ground (Scream 4 is the obvious recent exception but that itself is the exception to the rule). The plot of this Spanish film is relatively simple.

Sara (Rueda) has a degenerative and apparently irreversible eye disease which has turned her blind. Before the titles even roll she appears to have committed suicide but her twin sister Julia (also played by Rueda) refuses to believe it. She is also afflicted with the early stages of the disease and despite concern from her husband that she is imagining things on account of her condition, Julia is determined to get to the bottom of her sister's death.

Morales throws in just the right amount of information and a few neat twists and turns at a steady pace to maintain the tension for the first two-thirds of the film. In the final act it moves up several gears and from nervy and unsettling it becomes genuinely horrific and also provides some  surprising revelations.

To go into too much detail would be to spoil what is a taut and suspenseful thriller, wonderfully acted by Rueda. The film also makes you consider fear from a new perspective. A killer on the loose is one thing but when you're rapidly losing your sight it takes it into a whole new dimension. This isn't the first time this notion has been addressed in film (1994's Blink starring Madeleine Stowe springs instantly to mind) but Julia's Eyes is nevertheless an original and intelligent chiller. Highly recommended.

EXTRAS ★★½ An interview with director and co-writer Morales (2:11); an interview with star Rueda (3:05); an interview with co-star Homar (0:48); an interview with producer Guillermo del Toro (2:12); B-roll footage (7:22); the theatrical trailer

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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