Studio: Shout Studios
Director: Jud Cremata
Writer: Jud Cremata
Producer: Jud Cremata, Marc Wolloff, Nick Sarkisov, Eryl Cochran
Stars: Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, Isabel May, Odessa A¡¯zion, Brooke Sorenson, Jessica Sarah Flaum, Blake Robbins, Dakota Baccelli, Valorie Hubbard, Bill Timoney
Five teens experience an unexpectedly terrifying night when they try to prank a mysterious girl in a house across the street.
¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± didn¡¯t look like my bag from the beginning. The plot puts five slumber-partying girls in a possibly paranormal predicament when they decide to prank the mysterious teen who moved into a haunted house across the street. I¡¯ve vicariously attended more scary movie sleepovers than I can count. At my age, I don¡¯t need to attend one more. Add in a vague anti-bullying theme, which also isn¡¯t overly relevant to adult interests, and we¡¯ve got a second way in which the movie ostracizes me from its ideal audience.
But I¡¯m a sucker for cinematic gimmicks, and ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± has one. Although there are a couple of cuts, ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± unfolds in real time and is shot to look like one continuous take. That¡¯s a cool concept. It¡¯s also where the film¡¯s ingenuity both begins and ends.
¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± has no narrative need for the single take style. The sole benefit it provides is attracting eyes like mine to a routine thriller that¡¯s nothing more than forgettable filler. Hats off, I guess, for coming up with a way to make me notice a movie I wouldn¡¯t have given the time of day to otherwise. Yet what difference does it make when a ho-hum horror film loses my attention so quickly, it¡¯s like I never knew it existed in the first place anyway?
¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± doesn¡¯t appear carefully choreographed like Alfred Hitchcock¡¯s ¡°Rope.¡± Rather than artful blocking where inventive angles and snaking movements turn the camera into a character, this lens plainly follows people around, like the operator simply pressed record and went at it without a rehearsal. Shot with her almost always in frame, main girl Emma goes across the street once and up/down staircases a few times. Other than those sequences, the camera usually stays confined to one room at a time. It merely points, pans, and basically documents events instead of becoming a creative device to motivate them.
Opening introductions are an excruciating test of patience. Possibly because they are ad libbing in lieu of adhering to a strict script, the five girls feverishly talk over one another in a continuous cacophony of noise. 60 seconds or so of exposition explodes. Its shrapnel then gets scattered around 20+ minutes of irrelevant walla-walla where boredom breeds boorishness to establish these mean girls as obnoxious. One of the teens, Madison, goes all in on her troublemaker persona to a point where I wished whatever fright was on its way would jump the gun and kill her before the first act finished.
I will credit the young actresses for giving this setup a sincere go. Their effort may be in service of an ultimately underwhelming endeavor. I¡¯m not surprised to see a two-year gap between ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡¯s¡± 2018 copyright date and 2020 release, as I can understand why distributors would wonder if viewers would bother with such a meager movie. But long takes present a tough challenge to performers still cutting their teeth on the trade, and these girls are game to get into it as much as they can.
Another odd gap occurs within the movie. Emma stays behind while her four friends don light-up ¡®Purge¡¯ masks and run across the street to yell ¡°boo!¡± at Julie, whom we never actually see, which is pretty funny for a movie with her name in the title. Emma then puts her little sister Lilly to sleep. Moments later, Lilly vanishes. Regarding the disappearance, Emma tells one of the girls who returns, ¡°It¡¯s fine. Taylor (Emma¡¯s cousin) probably just realized what time it was and she went to the airport to pick up her mom and she probably took Lilly with her.¡± Really, Emma? Even disregarding the strange stuff going on, this is what you think happened in the last three minutes barely 10 feet from your bedroom?
That anecdote indicates how ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± tosses stuff into a story pot without thinking through how anything melts into a sensible stew. Early on, we see Madison getting reckless with a handgun as a joke. Nothing comes of it. Emma texts someone named Jordy, though that relationship doesn¡¯t bear any fruit on the fiction either. Drunk uncle Vince, dressed in a bloody shirt for no known reason, tells a tearful story about accidentally shooting a neighborhood boy. Then Vince immediately evaporates into thin air. Emma lives with Taylor due to her own father¡¯s death. Knitted voodoo dolls pop up in odd places. In addition to Julie having her own urban legend due to disguising a disfigurement, there¡¯s also the matter of mysterious Ms. Durer who lived in the same house and was rumored to be involved in the occult.
These various backstory bits mix together about as well as oil and water. If Julie and Ms. Durer were connected somehow, if an incident with another bullied girl who killed herself was relevant, if Uncle Vince¡¯s manslaughter mattered, or if Emma was otherwise cursed due to her father¡¯s death or the stolen voodoo doll, I missed how the movie made tied loose ends together.
Since we¡¯re stuck at home with Emma for most of the movie, whatever eerie encounters the other girls have while pranking Julie are never shown. ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± still gets weird in a way where you get anxious with wanting to know what¡¯s really going on. Then it ends on a cheap cut to black as you realize maybe the movie never had any endgame in mind after all.
¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie¡± feels like the filmmaker had an inkling of an intriguing idea for a mystery. Unsure where to take it, he then seemingly said, ¡°eh, I¡¯ll just film it on the fly to look like one take. Let the gimmick do the heavy lifting instead of figuring out a solid story.¡± That¡¯s a good trick for getting someone to watch ¡°Let¡¯s Scare Julie.¡± That¡¯s not nearly enough to get someone to like it.
Review Score: 35