The feature film debut from writer and director Mathew A. Brown, Julia is a Neo-Noir rape-revenge film about a girl who is dragged into a shady form of cult therapy after a brutal trauma.
Ashley C. Williams the unfortunate middle section of Tom Sixx’s Human Centipede, is here granted a far more interesting script than Sixx gave her. By the seven minute mark, Williams’ doe-eyed sweetheart has been drugged, raped by a gang of hooded men, dumped for dead, and revived to wander home in the early hours. Brown doesn’t focus too much on exploiting the scene because its already tough enough on its own, the real exploitation element is in later narrative developments.
Julia is more in the vein of Ferrara’s Ms .45 (1981) than it is I Spit on Your Grave (1978), but even then Brown has tried very hard not to let his feature flaunt any of the scuzzy filmmaking synonymous with exploitation flicks. Julia is a surprisingly sleek film; Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson’s cold, detached cinematography is nicely off-set by staunch use of primary colours, particularly red. It’s in a red-lit bar that a waitress calls Julia ‘Lady Snowblood’- a nice nod to Toshiya Fujita’s classic 1973 film.
After approaching a gang of hot-headed vixens in a deserted bar, Julia finds herself inducted into some kind of therapy cult. It’s an interesting turn, and one that more subtly addresses the exact same thing most of those 70s and 80s shockers did. With gentle coercion, and the involvement of a –mostly unseen- male therapist named Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy), Julia begins to learn how to deal with her emotions by luring ‘Pseudo-Corporate Macho Types’ to bar toilets and beating the living shit out of them. There’s something wonderfully justified in the film’s eventual surrender to exploitation ideas, it happens just far enough into this journey to be entertaining and horrifying. From there it only gets worse, or better, depending how you look at it. Murder and mayhem seem the natural shadows of Julia’s new coping mechanism and it isn’t long before we get an inversion of Julia’s trauma acted out in true Noir style. A final point would be to note that when he eventually shows his face, Noseworthy’s brief appearance is one of the most intriguingly bizarre features of the film.
There is something vaguely pretentious in the way Brown packs his exploitation Neo Noir with seemingly unfinished strands, but it’s not enough to ruin the journey. The look of the film is great, utilising suggestive lighting and clinical shooting to relay Julia’s changing persona, whilst Frank Hall’s soundtrack is a solid exploitation update. Overall Julia is an often-shocking, sometimes-bizarre, trip into post-exploitation cinema with a fantastic lead performance from Ashley C. Williams.
Dir: Mathew A. Brown
Stars: Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Joe de la Fuente, Jack Noseworthy