The most terrifying and effective psychological horrors don’t rely on shocking scenes of gratuitous violence to traumatize their viewers but rather more subtle techniques to get under their skin. Mixing a bleak and dissonant score with a collection of dark and claustrophobic shots can create an atmosphere of foreboding doom, cultivating a level of heightened fear in the auditorium that becomes almost palpable. Indeed it’s often what you don’t see that’s the scariest, leaving your imagination to conjure up your greatest fears, constructing something far more horrific and personal than any film director could possibly conceive. With this in mind surely a Guillermo Del Toro produced thriller with a focal character who suffers from a degenerative eye disorder (gradually rendering her blind as the movie progresses) must have all the ingredients needed to freak-out even the most hardened fan’s of the genre?
The aforementioned victim is Julia, a young buxom woman who fits perfectly into the archaic, cliqued, stereotype of how women should appear in horror films - beautiful but ultimately lacking in anything resembling common sense . When she discovers her twin sister has died (having apparently hung herself from the basement ceiling) she refuses to accept it was suicide. Endeavouring to uncover the truth (despite the threat of the stress accelerating her ocular degeneration), Julia soon finds herself in a ‘cat and mouse’ scenario with a mysterious, ambiguous and almost certainly malevolent stranger.What transpires is a technically striking piece of film making, albeit one which requires you to accept its rather ludicrous premise to fully appreciate its climate of fear. Regardless, there is no doubt that the decision to place the audience directly in the shoes of Julia, with her decreasing level of vision recreated on the screen through uncomfortably blurred and softened ‘point-of-view’ shots, is highly original and worthy of the highest acclaim. For fans of a good scare, there’s still all the predictable ’bumps in the night’ we’ve grown to expect from our horror film’s, although the overly melodramatic soundtrack at times does becomes a little to intrusive and distracting. It all culminates in a highly invigorating exercise aimed to reignite an otherwise dwindling genre, which deserves to be seen (unless you suffer from a nervous disposition or get even remotely squeamish about needles), if only for it’s inventive approach and unique style.