Review: Julia X / Cert: 18 / Director: P.J. Pettiette / Screenplay: Matt Cunningham / Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Ving Rhames, Joel David Moore / Release Date: January 27th 2014
Erstwhile TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo takes the lead as a creepy serial killer in Julia X, a distinctly odd torture thriller with a twist. It's something of a cliché that Internet dates in horror films usually end up with someone being tied up and tortured – something the eponymous Julia quickly finds out for herself when Sorbo's Stranger throws her in the back of his van, chains her up and brands her with his signature 'X'.
The first twenty minutes or so of Julia X reside firmly in hackneyed city, with both characters behaving almost exactly as you would expect them to. Only the fact that Sorbo listens to The Carpenters' “They Long To Be (Close to You)” on his iPod as he kills saves it from complete mundanity. Forever associated with Homer and Marge's wedding dance in The Simpsons, it's an amusingly weird (and suitably creepy) piece to be playing in a low-budget torture film. Beyond that, however, it seems as though we're in for a depressingly predictable ride.
And then, somewhere around the half an hour mark, Julia X kicks into gear. Not only does Julia herself begin fighting back, but Sorbo starts having fun too. By the time Joel David Moore shows up, you'll find yourself beginning to actually enjoy Julia X. “Julie Andrews is a national treasure!” a furious Kevin Sorbo snarls, in the heat of battle. Unpredictable, surprisingly witty and enjoyably violent, it becomes a great little game of cat and mouse between Sorbo and the film's surprise antagonists. Sorbo gives a fantastic performance as The Stranger, obviously having fun with this subversion of his usual smooth, nice guy persona. The script gives him some great lines, most notably the wonderful Julie Andrews bit. It's a career best for an actor usually typecast in cheap sci-fi and fantasy television movies. The female characters fare slightly less well, but they're still a cut above the usual damsel in distress archetypes they could have been. Tied to a chair for most of the film, Joel David Moore isn't given much to do, but he still oozes charisma and sympathy. We're not sure why Ving Rhames (!) is here, but we're glad he is.
A funny, smart horror farce, Julia X is a delightful surprise, sidestepping cliché with wit, style and snark. It may be cheap and occasionally too silly for its own good, but it most definitely has the X-factor.