Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Movie Review: 'The Haunting of Julia' (1977)

By Ryan Clark

"Have you ever seen evil, nice Mrs. Lofting?  I have... Evil is not like ordinary people.  Evil never dies."

The Haunting of Julia (originally titled Full Circle) is exactly like Rosemary's Baby, except Mia Farrow's baby is a twelve year-old girl, she's married to Keir Dullea instead of John Cassavetes, they're rich and live in London, they don't know any witches, and... okay, it's completely different.  It is an adaptation of Peter Straub's first novel, Julia, and the fact that it's never been available on DVD has made it fairly obscure.  There's a small, but devoted, following for this film because of television screenings and a VHS release in the 1980s, and I think that its reputation will grow with further exposure.

Mia Farrow, who I love not only for Rosemary's Baby but for the numerous Woody Allen movies she appeared in, is superb as a fragile housewife dealing with the loss of a child.  Her young daughter chokes on an apple at the breakfast table; she attempts a tracheotomy with a knife out of desperation, but the girl bleeds to death before the paramedics arrive and they find Mia in a state of shock.  When she's well enough to be released from the hospital, she understandably runs away from her cold husband (Keir Dullea) and rents a furnished, and possibly haunted, old house of her own.

Gauzy and immaculately lensed, The Haunting of Julia deals with the same feelings of parental loss as Don't Look Now.  At first, out of guilt, Mia thinks she sees her dead daughter, but it's actually some other evil little ghost girl.  The most amusing part of the movie is the jolly old psychic, Mrs. Fludd, who wears a hat so large and fluffy it makes her look like The Wolf Man.

When a seance is held in Mia's new old house, frightened Mrs. Fludd does not like what she sees at all and warns that Mia should vacate the premises.  She doesn't, though, because if she did the movie would be over.  Instead, she opts to find out about the little girl who once lived in the house – a decision she may just regret as she comes closer and closer to solving the mystery.

The Haunting of Julia, though frequently creepy, is a slow burn for sure.  It provides no easy answers to the question of whether supernatural events are actually occurring.  The ending is one of the most achingly beautiful and depressing of all-time.  There's also a disturbing scene that involves a lamp falling into a bathtub and electrocuting the occupant; what makes this moment so chilling and sad is the fact that the person sees and tries to catch the lamp before it reaches the water a split second later.  This movie stands out among other supernatural horrors, because, in life, the malevolent little bitch was like Rhoda from The Bad Seed meets Charles Manson.  We only see her briefly, but by that time we already have a very clear picture of her in our minds.

Reviewed for Final Girl's SHOCKtober 2012.

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