Indie exploitation horror has a tendency to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes from sources of shock and fear. Julia is the story of Julia Shames (played by Human Centipede’s Ashley C. Williams), who is gang raped and almost killed. As she recovers from the horrific and evil ordeal, she finds out about a radical form of therapy, which involves hunting down men and beating the hell out of them.
This results in a series of training scenes followed by extreme violence. Julia’s identity is essentially stripped away from her over the course of the film as her ‘therapy’ turns her into a vengeance-fuelled killing machine. The movie eventually collapses into a rather worthless plot involving castration and a conspiracy of vengeful women. If the plot itself sounds insulting and weak, that’s because it is. There is no ‘message’ here; do not kid yourself that Julia is about society’s reaction (and ignorance) over the issues of sexual violence, nor is it about feminism or gender politics. What we have instead are some violent scenes, some nudity, and plenty of incredibly dull dialogue.
On the plus side, it’s beautifully shot and paced. The lighting and presentation is strong and each scene is well put together. Simple ideas (such as Julia’s clothing changing as she becomes more focused on revenge) are exaggerated and telegraphed throughout, as if the feature is desperate to tell you how clever it is. There are no plot twists here; everything is explained in advance (sometimes literally) and this is a surprisingly effective (if easy) form of storytelling. It’s just a pity that it’s so boring. Williams’s performance is very good and she injects genuine pathos and emotion into what is basically a Z-lister exploitation flick with no original content or ideas.
Julia is a good reminder that excellent actors and solid direction can only take a production so far, and if the central premise of your movie is unpleasant and poorly thought-out, no amount of skill will save it.
JULIA / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MATTHEW A. BROWN / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW A. BROWN / STARRING: ASHLEY C. WILLIAMS, TAHYNA TOZZI, JACK NOSEWORTHY, JOEL DE LA FUENTE / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 7TH