Physically and psychologically traumatised after being drugged, brutally gang raped, beaten and left for dead while on a date with a supposedly ‘nice guy’, shy, vulnerable nurse Julia Shames (Ashley C. Wiliams) finds herself drawn into a dark sisterhood of female empowerment and bloody vengeance presided over by the mysterious and mesmeric guru Dr Sgundud (Jack Noseworthy) whose unconventional self-help therapy involves a radically sexy Goth makeover and some quite literally emasculating behaviour under the tutelage of sleek, leather-clad domme Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi).

But as she grows stronger and more independent, a chance encounter with one of her attackers sees Julia become obsessed with meting out her own particular vengeance as she descends into a neon-splashed nightmare, bringing her into conflict with the enigmatic Sgundud and her new ‘sisters’…

Surreal and atmospheric, Julia is a gripping, nasty little rape-revenge fantasy that recalls the grubby delights of early Ferrara, writer/director Matthew A. Brown serving up a gritty, hypnotic slice of sleaze that riffs on Ms .45 and the Soska Sisters’ American Mary anchored by a terrific turn by the wonderful Ashley C. Williams as the mousy worm who turns, declaring war first on Man as a gender before zeroing in on the men who wronged her. Perhaps best known as the middle segment of The Human Centipede, Williams is great delivering an intelligent, melancholic, vulnerable performance as a broken woman finding emancipation through sex, violence and murder.

Unsettling and darkly erotic, there’s a sleazy, exploitative undercurrent to Julia; it’s neither as smart or as politically aware as the likes of Lucky McKee’s The Woman or the Soska’s American Mary and lacks their satirical edge, but there’s a twisted, down-and-dirty edge to Brown’s film, an almost fairytale perversity that fascinates, dragging us into Julia’s cloying, neon-drenched world. Brown’s not doing anything fresh with Julia but what he does, he does very well, crafting a squalid, unpleasant, nightmarish vision of the urban underbelly.

Dark, nasty and claustrophobic, Julia is a graphic, transgressive parable of female empowerment and retribution.


VERDICT: [rating=4]

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