Friday, August 26, 2011

Spanish Midnight: Julia’s Eyes

It is not clear whether Julia Levin’s tormentor is metaphorically or supernaturally invisible, but it does not matter. She could not see him anyway. Only a Hail Mary surgery can reverse the congenital deterioration of her vision. Unfortunately, it already claimed the sight and perhaps the life of her twin sister Sara in Guillem Morales’ Julia’s Eyes (trailer here), which screens tonight and Saturday ‘round midnight in New York at the IFC Center.

Though long estranged, her sister’s suicide does not feel right to Levin. Not really suspecting anything specific, she starts poking through the remains of her life. Much to her surprise, she learns her twin had a lover, who did his best not to be seen with her. She is also warned of a stalker, whom is described as a man who has learned to be invisible to the world, much like Ellison’s invisible man. However, rather than acts of self-destructive existentialism, this mystery man’s rage manifests itself in sadism and homicide.

In fact, it is something of an open question whether the stalker’s invisibility is physical or metaphysical for most of the film’s first two acts. It is an intriguing twist that Morales pulls off quite nicely. He also clearly understands what is unseen is far more unsettling than that which is graphically visible, going so far as to obscure the face of a central character for a good portion of the film. It might be slightly gimmicky, but it is effective.

A strong rooting interest, Belén Rueda plays Levin smarter and more resourceful than most horror movie heroines. She and Lluís Homar (as husband Isaac) also make a convincing couple together, attractive in a real life down-to-earth way.

One of a raft of recent films to carry Guillermo del Toro’s producer imprimatur, Eyes actually straddles the horror and dark psychological thriller genres rather nimbly. In truth, it is almost completely bloodless, but quite intense. It also has the same dank ominous look of many recent Spanish horror movies. Still, if something is not broken, why fix it.

Appropriately creepy and tense, Eyes is a tightly executed dark genre film. Whether considered horror or not, it is nicely put together, holding up well even if seen earlier than midnight. Recommended to horror fans (broadly defined) Eyes screens this evening (8/26) and tomorrow night (8/27) at the IFC Center in New York.