09th Sep2015

‘Julia’ DVD Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Joel de la Fuente, Cary Woodworth, Darren Lipari, Ryan Cooper, Brad Koed, Sean Kleier, Bridget Megan Clark | Written and Directed by Matthew A. Brown



One of the key criticisms bandied about regarding horror movies in recent years has been the abundance of films which have focused on the brutalisation of women. Films like I Spit On Your Grave and its sequel, Maniac, Hidden In The Woods and many other films have focused on this aspect, some have done so in a manner which feels like it has a point to make, some do so veering close to doing it in an exploitative sense, indeed the BBFC felt so with the cut version of I Spit… Julia also fits into this rubric but while there are some aspects which are certainly problematic, as a film in its own right, it’s more interesting than you might expect going in.

Films like the notorious Swedish effort They Call Her One-Eye (aka Thriller) or indeed the rather more multiplex friendly likes of the Kill Bill films have used the idea of violence against women leading them to become strong figures of vengeance for decades now. Julia takes this ball and runs with it with its tale of a woman who suffers a brutal attack but finds solace in a bizarre sort of therapy which mixes standard issue cinematic psychiatry with a rather more bloody method of dealing with her demons. The most successful thing about the way the film handles this is in the way Julia’s progression is portrayed through visuals and audio.

Electro styled scores seem to be a bit of an in thing with genre cinema at the moment, with films like the aforementioned Maniac and the recent Jim Mickle directed Cold In July really adding to their atmosphere by doing so. Frank Hall’s propulsive score combined with an at-times surreal mixture of pop music lend a great sense of unease to proceedings throughout with an almost patchwork approach to the soundscape of the film impressing greatly. The look of the film also strikes, Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson’s lensing of the vibrant and rain soaked lights of the city contrasting nicely with the drab, sick-green look of the scenes in the daytime Julia increasingly becomes a character more suited to the night and the film acknowledges this. Writer/director Matthew A. Brown further adds to this with a tendancy to have scenes play out in long takes with the music and the visuals reaching a critical mass of sorts before cutting away abruptly to something else. It’s a jarring but engaging choice which delivers.

Things get more problematic with the character of Julia herself. Her arc from repressed and damaged loner to stylish weapon of vengeance goes from one extreme to another a touch too quickly and while the film never wallows in potentially making her attack sexualised, that scene and the flashbacks too it are contextually appropriate throughout, Brown does devolve the material with a couple of scenes of blood-soaked hot girls getting off with each other which feels pandering and tonally off in moments.

The film’s inclusion of a bizarre cult led by Jack Noseworthy’s Dr Sgundud also feels like a bit of a misstep. While they are vital in bringing Julia to the place she needs to be to start her revenge, it is weakly sketched and forgotten about for much of the film. When it does come about, it feels as if its from a different, and frankly lesser film with Noseworthy comfortably giving the worst performance of the cast, which aside from him is pretty strong, Ashley C. Williams giving a good account of herself in a difficult role.

Julia is an evocative and engaging watch more from its uniquely cinematic stylings than through anything given in the narrative. While certainly not perfect, overall it is a decent entry in a genre which is troubling at the best of times and I certainly will be remembering writer/director Brown’s name for the future.

**** 4/5

Julia is out now on DVD and VOD from Matchbox Film


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