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The Haunting of Julia

Saturday November 5, 2016 in 70s cinema | horror

Theatrical poster for The Haunting of JuliaWe all know Rosemary’s Baby, but a Pointless answer to the category Mia Farrow horror films would definitely be The Haunting of Julia. This 1977 film was recently listed in the BFI’s 10 great overlooked British horror films of the 1970s. Admittedly I had never heard of the film until now. Typical of the horror genre of the time which cast American stars in a London setting, maybe it was simply pushed aside by bigger and louder releases of the time such as The Omen.

Tragic really, as I would agree with the BFI and think that this is one of the best horror films of the late 70s. If you’re looking it up, there is an alternative, and better because it’s very smart, title which is Full Circle. If you’re feeling smart yourself you could also call it Le Cercle Infernal which is good too.

The only version of the film I’ve had access to is “R” rated, meaning that some of the less tasteful scenes have been cut, including an infamous “tortoise” segment. This also means that the opening of the film is slightly confusing. It begins with a no nonsense start when daughter Kate of Julia and Marcus Lofting (Farrow and Keir Dullea) chokes over breakfast. Farrow resorts, ultimately unwisely, to performing a tracheotomy. Following Kate’s death (although it isn’t that clear what’s happened in the cut version) Julia spend some time in hospital before avoiding Marcus to live in a house in London on her own.

The Haunting of Julia is subtle and there are few shocks and surprises. And it has the best “mirror trick”, now the most cliched of horror techniques, I have ever seen in a film. It’s good because it’s just eerie, and things get weird when a medium (brilliantly played by Anna Wing, Lou Beale in Eastenders) turns up to hold a seance at the house. Farrow is excellent throughout and very watchable as always, following a strange thread when she discovers that her house is haunted by the ghost of a little boy; the stories are linked, in a way, and events loop around to rather a nasty end. This film reminded me of this year’s The Conjuring 2, keeping the tradition going by also being set in London with American stars, and another rather good film.

The performances are all good. Tom Conti floats around as a long haired love interest and other Brit supporting actors include Jill Bennett as Julia’s sister, Nigel Havers as an estate agent and Peter Sallis as a nosy neighbour. Also look out for Julian Fellowes as a librarian. Best of all are actors I’m not familiar with: Robin Gammell as Swift and Samantha gates as Mrs Rudge. It’s directed by Richard Locraine, who’s had a varied career, his other films including Brimstone and Treacle (1982) and Richard III (1995). The writer Harry Bromley Davenport has very much stayed in the genre, making the Xtro films.

Incidentally, other Pointless answers to the category Mia Farrow horror films that would score highly are Secret Ceremony (1968), See No Evil (1971) and, going full circle perhaps, the 2006 remake of The Omen.

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