May 27, 2011

Julia's Eyes [15]

Dir: Guillem Morales
I'm not the guy who talks to the characters in the cinema (you know the guy, the one who yells "Don't go in there" at the Nightmare on Elm Street remake), in fact I think there should be severe punishment for that guy. However, I did shout at Julia's Eyes. Let me explain myself... For the better part of two hours I had watched Julia's Eyes lurch from being a deeply uninspired noises off horror, with unconvincing supernatural overtones, to become a dull, stupid and derivative serial killer film. Then came the final shot, which managed at once to be head-slappingly obvious, mawkishly sentimental and insultingly stupid, and I could not contain myself, the words just sort of rolled out at the screen "Oh, do fuck off".

This is a terrible shame, because Belen Rueda, who took the lead in earlier Spanish horror hit The Orphanage and here returns to the genre, deserves considerably better. Her performance exceeds the film at every turn, and if you believe in a single frame of Julia's Eyes it will be entirely thanks to her nuanced work, remarkable in a film so hackneyed.

The fault lies, unquestionably, with director Guillem Morales, who makes a series of film hobbling choices. There are many threads which Morales sets up, but never pays off. Among them a group of blind women who seem to have almost supernatural senses, a creepy neighbour for Rueda's Julia, why the hell nobody thinks to tell Julia that a: her twin sister (whose suicide opens the film) had an operation to correct her blindness and b: That that operation failed. These are just some of the half complete threads. The screenplay also gives us little sense of most of the characters' motivations, notably those of its ultimate villain, which are 'explained' in a garbled and hilariously nonsensical speech.

However, the big issue is Morales' consistently awkward direction, which knows only three qualities; cliche, theft and pathetically obvious metaphor. At times Julia's Eyes resembles a horror cliche museum; you've got the creaking floorboards, the lights going on or off suddenly, loud inappropriate music, the obvious dream sequence, the chase through a thunderstorm (complete with thunder as a score track cueing the scares), a score that essentially bellows 'are you scared yet? HUH?' at you for two hours, and even a 'CAT!' moment, and that's, again, an incomplete list. Theft is also prevalent, horror films like The Eye and The Orphanage loom large, one sequence is an all but direct lift from The Silence of the Lambs (but not scary) and the last shot may as well be from Contact.

The visual metaphor was what got to me most though, especially during a roughly twenty minute sequence after Julia (who has gone blind) has had a cornea transplant and has to wear a bandage over her eyes. During this sequence we never see anyone's face except Julia's. Several problems here; first it's just awkward, and forces Morales into a lot of odd compositions and unnatural lighting, second WE GET IT, she doesn't know what people look like, stop punching us in the face with the visual metaphor and thirdly, most problematically, it makes it screamingly obvious who the villain is, it's basically a Scooby Doo technique,and frankly Hanna Barbera got more surprises out of it.

This is an irritating film, as it went on I had an deepening desire to slap the director, and it can't be rescued either by the best efforts of Belen Rueda or by the occasional creepy image. I've got no idea what someone as talented and as original as Guillermo Del Toro is doing putting his name to this boring, derivative, amateur night tosh.

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