OK, here’s a slightly unusual question for you – when was the last time you actually cried during a horror movie?

Now I don’t mean a chuckle at a so-bad-its-good flick, or tears of frustration at some stupid decision from a leading character. Nope, I mean a full-blown welling-up, with the material put up on screen sending you into some sort of emotional crisis.

It’s not that common is it? Which is why I will continue to shout from any rooftop you give me that Full Circle, or The Haunting of Julia as it was renamed (stupidly) for the US, is one of the great undiscovered horror films of the previous half-century.

An independent film, the release was tragically buried back in 1978 after little fanfare (dismissed as ‘too subtle’ by some studio bosses) and wasn’t even shown in the US until a small-scale release in 1981.

Apart from a couple of crappy French/German releases, the film hasn’t even surfaced on DVD, so it’s pretty easy to see how this gem has gone unnoticed for so long.

But this is a film that so deserves more love – and I’m going to give it for the rest of my film-watching days.

Mia Farrow stars as Julia Lofting, who in a harrowing opening scene sees her young daughter choke to death in her arms, despite Julia’s desperate attempts at an amateur tracheotomy.

Consumed by grief, Julia suffers a nervous breakdown and is hospitalised. Upon release, she has no intention of returning to live with her over-bearing, judgemental husband Magnus (Keir Dullea) and instead moves into a new house of her own in London’s Holland Park. 02

Aiming to get her life back on track, Julia instead finds herself confronted by images of young, blonde children wherever she goes, and is still haunted by guilt over her involvement in her daughter’s death.

Attempting to bring her out of her shell is antique dealer friend Mark (Tom Conti), who strikes up a genuine, warm friendship with Julia and may even be able to re-immerse her back into social circles.

All that though comes to a crashing halt after a séance is held at Julia’s new home (against her wishes), with the medium suggesting the house is haunted by the ghost of a child – a child who very much wants vengeance, and whose description eerily matches Julia’s daughter Katie.

Is the house haunted? Is it Katie? If so, what does she want?

To give too many answers here would be to ruin the many delights Full Circle has to offer, as in many ways the film resembles a supernatural mystery as much as full-blown horror, with Farrow trying to piece together the parts to complete the jigsaw puzzle of just exactly who is haunting her new home.

Anyone expecting a slam-bang ghost flick, or one which ladles on the gore should steer well clear, as director Richard Loncraine’s offering does not operate in that sphere. In fact, I would certainly place the film in that ‘they wouldn’t make this today’ category.

But what it is is tremendously acted, perfectly framed and comes complete with a stunning score courtesy of Colin Towns.

Farrow is quite simply sensational, producing a central performance that is vulnerable yet determined, with her features perfectly suiting the task at hand – a classic case study in grief if you will.

Great support is given by Conti and the pair work really well together – there is genuine chemistry it seems.

The film also looks tremendous, with great use made of autumnal London scenery, with the film almost resembling a dream at times.

While not high on the ‘in-your-face’ horror tropes, Full Circle is certainly creepy, and the climax is one of the most affecting finishes to any scare flick I can remember – in fact, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up just thinking about it as I write this.

It is quite simply scandalous that a film like Full Circle has been allowed to sink into the mire, while the ninth entry in some well-past-its-sell-by-date franchise has flourished.

Emotionally devastating and chilling at the same time, Full Circle went from nowhere into my ‘favourite films of all-time list’ the moment the end credits rolled.

So please help me and watch this film if you can (it’s on youtube people) – I promise you it is something to savour.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • simon50

    Glad you’re a fan of this movie and are encouraging folks to discover/re-discover. Not sure why you think the re-titling was “stupid.” Peter Straub’s novel was called “Julia.” Not a great title for a “ghost” story movie. But neither is Full Circle – which is just dull/generic – and gives no idea whatsover about the movie. Peter Straub thought the title change to “The Haunting of Julia” was a good idea – otherwise I would never had done it – and the new title allowed for a campaign that emphasized the “haunting” element. Director Richard Loncraine also thought it was an improvement for marketing purposes. In any case, we did much better in the U.S. with the movie then its fate in the UK. Under any title we can both agree it’s a great movie, which is why I decided to devote the time and resources to distribute. – all best, John Alan Simon/Discovery Films.

    • Movie Ramblings

      Thanks for the comments – in retrospect I was probably harsh in my dismissing the title change! I also have a magazine feature on the film being published in the near future. Do you have any idea what happened to the film after you distributed it in terms of rights etc – that has held back the film being properly re-released to this day!