In 1978, a strange little revenge film hit the theaters called Day of the Woman. After a limited theatrical release that made small waves with audiences, it was re-released in 1980 under the name I Spit on your Grave. In the film, a woman is brutally gang raped while on holiday and systematically takes revenge on her attackers. While some critics said that it was derivative of films like Last House on the Left, others chastised it for its 45 minute rape scene. It is a very brutal film, and while very difficult to watch, it effectively makes you really hate the attackers. It’s a horror movie that challenges its audience with realistic violence and a sickening scenario. In fact, if you look around today, you can see other very similar movies. They are becoming more common place as we transition to more character driven movies that don’t want to scare you with loud noises and CGI. They want to break you on the inside.
It’s here that the Matthew Brown’s Julia resides. Julia is a dark movie along the same lines as I Spit on your Grave and American Mary. Our heroine is brutally destroyed and is left with a choice: Let it kill her or to heal her through vengeance. While ISOYG focuses only on the revenge, AM takes a different route: Mary struggles to get past what happens to her. Julia goes even further.
Julia (Ashley C Williams) is shy young woman that makes her living as a plastic surgeon’s assistant in New York City. Although quite beautiful, she hides under thick glasses and layers of clothes. The quirky soundtrack that accompanies her life drives home how out of place she feels in the big city. But, she is quite excited to have a date with a handsome man she met and meets him at his apartment. Unfortunately, he drugs her and three of his friends show up for the “party”.
Julia is left for dead next to the river. After contemplating suicide, we watch as she internalizes what happened to her and realize…this is how she deals with her problems in life. She begins drinking regularly at a local tavern when she happens to overhear a group of women talking about this new psychiatrist that specializes in helping women get past the abuse they’ve suffered. After meekly approaching one of the group’s members, she is followed home by Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi). She introduces Julia to Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy) and his therapy. Julia is trained to prey on the wandering eyes of men in this world. While told explicitly not to seek vengeance on her own attackers, she is let loose in this world on others’ attackers.
It’s definitely an interesting concept and puts the audience in a position to root for Julia. However, the line becomes thin on occasion and Julia happened to lose me in a few places as to just what some of the guys’ transgressions were. They were all dogs and would follow the beautiful woman that made eye contact with them out the door, but only one or two were implied to be rapists. Of course, this could have just been Julia’s own doing as she blurs the lines immediately and never fully accepts her treatment.
Julia is beautifully shot, and first time director Matthew A Brown is more than competent as a director. Williams is perfect as the wide eyed, innocent killer while Tozzi is cool as her empowered tutor. In fact, the cast did a great job overall. The soundtrack follows Julia’s mood. It ranges from quirky to dark depending upon its lead character’s state of mind and is quite effective within the story.
The thing I liked the most about Julia is that it dealt with the aftermath of a horrible event effectively. While movies like I Spit on your Grave focus primarily on the revenge, American Mary marched us past the revenge and into how something like this can leave you feeling dead inside. Julia rushes us through attack, and ponders whether it is better to heal through confrontation, remembering, or just getting past a horrible ordeal.
It is definitely worth a look (but I must warn you…it can be quite brutal). Psychologically, it’s not a fun a movie to watch but Julia warrants a look simply for the story it tells and the questions it poses.