Directed by Matthew A. Brown.
Starring Ashley C.Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Ryan Cooper and Brad Koed.
A neo-noir revenge thriller centering on Julia, who after suffering a brutal trauma, falls prey to an unorthodox form of therapy to restore herself.
This debut feature from writer-director Matthew A. Brown joins the ranks of stylistically diverse rape revenge horror thrillers such as I Spit on Your Grave, Lady Snowblood (mentioned in the dialogue, interestingly enough) and Baise-Moi. Certainly for its first half, Julia takes a studied look at the mini-genre and brings a degree of originality and design to the overwhelmingly grim content. Much of this is achieved through the merging of a semi-hallucinatory glow and colour to the visuals, with an excellent soundtrack perfectly fitting the contrasting scenes of morbid brutality with tragedy and doomed romance.
The audience is introduced to the character of Julia (Ashley C. Williams) as she arrives at the apartment of the seemingly charming Piers (Ryan Cooper), en-route to an undisclosed date venue. However, appearances are frequently deceptive. It soon transpires that Julia’s drink has been drugged and she is woozily confronted by Piers and three of his friends.
The viciousness of what happened next is gradually played out in Julia’s mind as she somehow makes it back home. After being left for dead on the banks of the Hudson, she takes to frequenting a neighbourhood women-only bar as she gradually realises the full extent of what has taken place. Overhearing some regulars discussing a new form of therapy that allows rape-victims to experience a progressive sense of empowerment and ownership, she feels compelled to find out more.
Masterminded and coached by Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy), the unconventional approach instructs victims to inflict violence against random sleazy men unknown to them. Crucially, the therapy can only work if the attacked are strangers, who will make a move without prior provocation. A guy that follows just because of eye contact and what she’s wearing is deemed fair game. Above all else, it should never be ‘personal’.
Aided along with this somewhat dubious course of self-realisation and rehabilitation by expert disciple Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi), Julia becomes ever more embroiled in the treatment and finds herself in the midst of a neon red identity crisis. As might be expected, the urge to take matters into her own hands and disregard Sgundad’s rule no.1 becomes more and more difficult to ignore…
Julia is an oddly disconcerting film. The central premise of attacking soon to be deemed guilty (at least in the minds of the therapy group) strangers in place of the victim’s perpetrators is obviously difficult to market as an idea, but the way in which Julia overcomes it and everything else in her path works well as a sort of philosophical horror. There are all sorts of ideas going on in the first half of the film particularly, and even the more extreme shock tactics have their place in the unfolding story. A film that raises plenty of nightmarish questions.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.