Julia’s Eyes

Viewed – 12 November 2011  Blu-ray

Normally when a movie uses a well-known director’s name above the title, followed by ‘presents’ it’s usually a reason to steer clear.  These movies often pale in comparison to said movie director’s actual work, but use his/her name to make back their money.  No such concerns here though, as although the movie has the endorsement of Guillermo Del Toro, it’s easily as good as anything that director has previously delivered.

The talented Belen Rueda (The Orphanage) plays Julia, a woman with a degenerative sight disease who finds out her estranged twin sister has committed suicide.  Believing there is more to her sister’s death than everyone else believes, Julia begins her own investigation, leading her to the discovery of a shadowy figure who nobody seems to ever see but her.  This very atmospheric and well acted movie is full of twists, a keep you guessing plot and real humdinger scares.  The lead actress is very good; beautiful, emotional and convincing, and her plight is very absorbing.  I liked how the movie plays on her failing sight, and the clever camera work to convey her growing disorientation was very well done, making this viewer feel as vulnerable as the protagonist.  It may borrow heavily from Japanese horror The Eye, and perhaps even Takeshi Miike’s acclaimed shocker Audition, but I liked how things panned out, and the motive behind what was happening was intelligently revealed and believable.  At times I thought I knew what was about to happen, but the movie would always throw me a red herring and catch me off guard.

Director Guillem Morales has delivered a movie that has tension, scares and quality acting in a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Add to this some gorgeous camera work, with an effective, tension-filled score … and this pretty much delivers on all counts.  A must see.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Orphanage

Viewed – 13 September 2008  DVD

Now if you are one of those people that don’t do subtitled movies, haven’t the patience for reading as well as watching – then I pity you, as to be honest you are missing out on some of the finest forms of cinematic entertainment this small planet has to offer.  This is just one brilliant example of foreign cinema’s countless delights.

With the watchful eye of current hot property Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 2) and directed by newcomer J A Bayona this eerie, beautifully filmed ghost story follows a 30 something woman who along with her husband, buys the old orphanage where she spent her childhood so to renovate it and make it a home for disabled children.  Then during an open day for the children and parents, her own adopted son Simon disappears.  So begins a creepy mystery-drama with some chilling overtones and a wonderful central performance from Belen Rueda as the woman searching for answers not only to her son’s disappearance but also to her own past.

What helps make this not just your standard haunted house horror, is a really compelling story, gently told and with some great acting.  The Orphanage itself is so well filmed that it becomes a character in its own right, and the atmosphere and tension are cranked up so effectively that when the frights do come – you’re almost knocked out of your seat.  Add to this some wonderful orchestral music that adds to the emotion of the story and with a draining, powerful ending – this is easily another contender for film of the year.  Stunning stuff.

Verdict:  5 /5