I first saw this movie when I was a child. I was probably about 11 or 12 when I stumbled across it on TV. Thinking it looked interesting, I watched the entire movie. And I didn’t sleep that night.
Flash forward to several years later when I stumbled across it on the now-defunct FearNet. I was thrilled to find this rare gem, but also laughed at how scared I’d been as a child. After all, that had been years ago. Nothing scares me anymore.
I watched it. I didn’t sleep that night.
After the tragic accidental death of her daughter (in a horrific and heart-wrenching scene), well-to-do Julia Lofting separates from her somewhat cold, domineering husband (Keir Dullea) and moves to a big empty house to rebuild her life. But the spirit of Olivia, a little girl who lived there before, still dominates the house and soon starts dominating Julia as well. As Julia tries to unravel the past she learns the disturbing truth about the little girl. And we learn that not all children are the angels we think they are.
When I say this movie scared me, I am being genuine, although I do think that a lot of people will be turned off by the slow pace and lack of action scenes. This is a movie not based on visceral horror but characters. Yes, there are a few death scenes in it but apart from the daughter’s death in the beginning and the somewhat shocking ending, those scenes aren’t the scariest parts of the movie. No, in this film, conversations become more frightening than any murder scene. One of the film’s most ominous moments, for example, comes from a man describing the death of a little boy at the hands of other children guided by Olivia. The inflection of his voice, combined with the vivid description is horrifying. No visuals needed.
As the heroine, Julie is easy to empathize with. Here, Mia Farrow is every bit as fragile and sympathetic as she was in Rosemary’s Baby which works well for her character who’s definitely a woman on the edge. The other actors do quite well, including a roguish best friend Mark, played by Tom Conti, who steals every scene he’s in with a terrifically natural performance. Only Dullea’s performance is bit too understated – but at least it’s in keeping with his character.
The Haunting of Julia is a movie that weaves around you, slowly twisting harder and harder, building up to a frightening conclusion that terrified me as a child and still shocked me as an adult. There is no ‘big bang boom crash’ of a climax. It’s rather a quiet stillness that’s even more unnerving and proves that little ghost children work best when they are seen and not heard. It’s all played against a creepy soundtrack with a distinctly eerie 70s sound that’s wonderfully scored and brilliantly effective.
The story may seem a little familiar and comparisons to The Changeling are not unfounded. Both movies involve a lonely protagonist coping with the tragic loss of a child who are haunted by the spirit of another child after moving to a big spooky house. There’s even a creepy seance scene. But even though Julia came out three years before, it’s not as widely known as that classic film, which is a shame because it really is every bit as good, if a little less flashy.
The Haunting of Julia was also released under the title Full Circle and is a true rare horror in that it’s really hard to find. But if you’re able to grab a copy, be sure to watch it at night by yourself in the dark for maximum effect. Just don’t plan on sleeping too well afterwards.
Rating: 8 out of 10