Director – Richard Loncraine
Cast – Mia Farrow, Keir Dullea, Tom Conti, Jill Bennett, Robin Gammell, Cathleen Nesbitt, Anna Wing, Edward Hardwicke
Release Year – 1978
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I came across The Haunting of Julia while trying to find another film that I wanted to see, Julia’s Eyes, and after reading a little about the film and noticing how rare it was in comparison to other efforts I immediately added this to my queue to follow Julia’s Eyes, and I am glad that I did. While this rare late 70s watch gives us a slow-building storyline that I have seen countless times, among other cliches, I found its execution to be top-notch, resulting in good horror for such an under-appreciated film.
After the sudden and shocking choking death of her young daughter, Julia Lofting(Mia Farrow; Rosemary’s Baby), an American living in London, dissolves her marriage and relocates to the new city of Kensington in hopes of recovering from her devastating loss. All is well at first, but soon after she finds herself bombarded by ghost residing in her home; the ghost of a young girl who bears a startling resemblance to her diseased daughter, and a taste for vengeance.
I really have a soft spot in my heart for films like these; atmospheric experiences that did much with a simple story and a low-budget that were neglected when they debuted and continue in that fashion to this day. The storyline involving our protagonist completely abandoning the life surrounding her painful memory and soon finding that the pain follows her wherever she goes is not a new idea, but it is a storyline that works for the horror genre. I loved the idea of Julia trying to run from what happened and finding herself suffering an equal amount of fear and trauma as she did when her daughter died before her eyes. When she begins seeing apparitions of a young girl very reminiscent of her daughter, Julia is thrown into a world of sorrow and slight madness as she tries to make sense of the reasoning behind it, which eventually leads her to investigate the matter and force herself into danger. The story is a slow one that takes its sweet time developing, and while it “feels” slow I never really found myself bored to a few good twists and turns. By the time the film’s climax kicked in I was already set on the level of my enjoyment of the experience, but I then found myself awestruck in amazement at just how awesome and horrific the closing sequence is, which did not necessarily raise the film’s rating but ensured that I will never forget this piece. In fact, I will go as far as to say that The Haunting of Julia has one of the greatest horror climaxes of all time.
Director Richard Loncraine(Firewall) did a great job executing this piece, taking a simple story and turning it into an engaging watch with awesome atmosphere and good execution of the horror involved. You should know by now that the storyline moves at a slow pace, and despite some cool ideas thrown into the story here and there the biggest reason behind the film never losing steam or becoming uninteresting was Loncraine’s execution. I loved how each of the sets involved provided high levels of spooky and gloomy atmosphere, and his execution of the horror Julia faces both physically and mentally was fantastic. Mia Farrow was great in her role, which was surprisingly reminiscent of her role as Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby, which pushed her character psychologically and also required her to have a very short hairstyle just like in this effort. Loncraine does not do anything extravagant to sell this piece, just giving us proper execution of the story at hand was enough to result in a great horror experience, however he really went stylish with the film’s superb climax, ensuring that the shock value was presented in a fashion sure to engrain the climax in your mind forever, as it did with me.
Overall, The Haunting of Julia is a great late 70s effort that despite a simple and slow-moving story manages to give us a great supernatural horror tale focusing on grief and redemption. Director Richard Loncraine does a great job providing creepy atmosphere throughout the film, which erupts into a positive horror experience that includes one of the greatest horror climaxes of all time. I recommend this to those of you who love atmospheric 70s horror, and those of you looking for an under-appreciated piece that never received the love it deserves.