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Will someone give actress Ashley C. Williams a break? The poor woman made her feature film debut as one of the unfortunate links of The Human Centipede. And in her latest starring role, her character is drugged, gang-raped and left for dead outside on a cold wintry night even before the opening titles. But until she gets a nice romantic comedy, she makes for a compelling victim in Matthew A. Brown’s rape-revenge genre effort Julia.
Wearing the sort of oversized eyeglasses that immediately signal a hottie to be revealed upon their removal, Julia, the assistant to a plastic surgeon, is on a date that goes disastrously wrong. Forgoing contact with the police afterwards, the emotionally and physically battered young woman retreats to her home where she consoles herself by drinking and continuing her destructive habit of self-cutting.
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Later, while nursing her sorrows at a seedy dive bar, she comes into contact with Sadie (Tahnya Tozzi), a sultry young woman who introduces her to the shady Dr. Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy, photographed so that his features remain mainly obscured) and his unique therapy for her pain. Insisting to Julia that she not make it “personal,” he introduces her to his clique of rape victims who prowl bars and nightclubs in search of male perpetrators on whom to take revenge which more often than not involves castration.
Similar in theme to the rebooted I Spit on Your Grave series–the third installment of which recently arrived in theaters—Brown’s debut feature is far more visually and stylistically striking. Shot largely at night in a series of gritty NYC locations, the action is frequently illuminated only by the haunting glow of red and green neon signs. Adding to the hallucinatory effect is Frank Hall’s eerie musical score.
Narratively, the film is far less impressive, barely sustaining a coherent storyline and lurching into gothic horror territory with its depiction of the doctor’s lair where male victims are hung like stuck pigs. The characters are defined in the sketchiest of terms, with Julia herself emerging as little more than a cipher. But as ciphers go, she’s an arresting one, with Williams using her large, expressive eyes to powerful effect, whether conveying desperate hopelessness as Julia is being brutally ravaged or steely determination as she exacts extremely bloody revenge.
Production: Farraj Factory, Kinetic Arts
Cast: Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Joel De La Fuente, Broad Koed, Ryan Cooper
Director/screenwriter: Matthew A. Brown
Producers: Matthew A. Brown, Ty Walker
Executive producers: Reyad Farraj, Alex Twersky
Director of photography: Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson
Production designer: Kay Lee
Editor: Sverrir Krist Jansson
Costume designer: Brenda Abbandandolo
Composer: Frank Hall
Casting: Erica Palgon
Rated R, 94 min.
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