Taking the 80s genre staple of ‘teenage pranks gone wrong’ and giving it a refreshing modern twist, Let’s Scare Julie is a surprising, effective and at times downright creepy slice of horror.

Working best when it avoids showing anything – instead focusing on suggestion, atmosphere building and the horrified reactions of the teenagers involved, the film is also eye-poppingly notable for appearing to be shot in one take (although I am sure there are some sneaky Carpenter-esque hidden cuts in there).

The set-up is simple – a bunch of teenage girls are packed in a bedroom late at night, swapping stories and jokey insults. The room belongs to Taylor (Isabel May), her cousin Emma (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, who is staying with the family) with friends Madison (Odessa Adlon), Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum) and Jess (Brooke Sorenson) joining for the fun.

After pranking Emma to open the film, the gang then decide it would be a laugh to try and do the same to the house across the street, a house notorious for some incidents over the years and currently inhabited by the mysterious Julie, another young girl who none of them seem to have ever seen.

Donned in illuminating masks (similar to the ones worn in Tragedy Girls if I remember correctly) Taylor, Madison, Paige and Jess set off, with Emma staying behind to look after her younger sister Lily.

But this is where things start to go horribly wrong, with the girls getting a lot more than they bargained for – and their problems are only just starting…

Having checked my Letterboxd account after watching this, I was struggling to find anyone who had a good thing to say about the film – which totally caught me off guard.

Chief complaint seems to be the girls themselves – that their characters are annoying, the dialogue banal etc. But, having a young daughter myself, I actually found it to be the opposite – just a bunch of teens acting like a bunch of teens, with the film being lent an air of realism due to that.

It does take its time to get going, but the slow build-up of tension is masterfully handled by director Jud Cremata, with shots of the girls creeping about dimly-lit corridors ratcheting up the fear factor. Aiding tremendously is a skin-crawling soundtrack, pushing many of the scenes into something near-frenzy.

Let’s Scare Julie also really works in terms of the group losing control of the situation, splintering off into pairs and then disintegrating as a group all together – you really feel these girls are in way over their head and have no idea how to get out. Kudos to the cast for that, with Johnson in particular showcasing more-than-believable dread.

As stated at the outset, the film stumbles slightly when it feels the need to ‘show’ us something in the final act, moving away from the garbled, panicked screams of voicemails to a few jump scares.

But that does not take the shine off Let’s Scare Julie overall – a clever, cunning, claustrophobic chiller that proved one of my favourites of the festival.

Let’s Scare Julie is available on digital HD on December 21

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Let's Scare Julie
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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 three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle