Julia started as many good horror films do… By drawing me in completely with something compelling.
Julia is a dental nurse who feels insignificant and fades into the wallpaper of everyday life. She may be just as beautiful and interesting as the next girl, but her lack of confidence leads her to hide herself, in both the way she dresses and the way that she behaves.
She self harms, and therefore the feeling of injustice is powerful when we witness her being drugged, raped and left for dead by a group of men.
But rather than being the last act before a tragic suicide, Julia is motivated by the prospect of a new form of revenge therapy. It involves exacting violence on men and soon she finds strength enough to track down those responsible for her pain.
But rather than reinstating some balance in her psyche, the acts seem to unlock a powerful hunger, giving her the potential to go too far into the realms of unjustifiable violence.
The film is the baby of writer/director Matthew Brown and is the first full length feature that he has worked on in this capacity.
Initially he does well, moving quickly to the key elements of the story, keeping a good tempo and creating a realistically bleak atmosphere in which the events can take place.
Ashley Williams (Human Centipede) shows promise as Julia the recluse and the rape scene itself is shocking and effective, leaving the viewer with a desire for vengeance and an empathy for the lead character.
But unfortunately, that’s where things start to lose a little focus. And as the odd sporadic flaw appears in this promising receptacle of a film, it soon feels as though Julia (the film, not the character) is too fractured to appreciate.
Although we immediately have feelings of compassion for Julia after her ordeal, the lack of character development means that our relationship with her never really goes beyond that.
And when she begins to do unexpected things, it’s hard to tell whether she’s acting this way as a result of the psychological damage caused by the rape, or if she was just like that all along.
The unorthodox ‘therapy’ and the way that she goes about discovering it are too far fetched to be taken seriously. It seems that in no time and with just a bit of makeup and some limited tuition from an experienced manhunter, Julia becomes a deadly assassin. Great in terms of saving time and money for the film producers, but not so for the viewers wanting realism.
The ‘rape-revenge’ genre as it’s now known is a powerful one. It pulls on primal urges of disgust and anger and films of this type regularly offer a satisfactory payoff. The troubling thing is though that many of these films tend to over sexualise the acts. And producers need to tread carefully when intercourse is being used as a method of violation and arousal in the same setting – as it is in Julia. It makes for uncomfortable viewing and broaches the borders of torture porn.
Julia soon seems to lack direction as more random incidents take place, right up to the climax which offers far more frustration than it does closure.
It’s disappointing for a film that very much looked and sounded the part from the beginning.