Looking like she stepped right out of Rosemary’s Baby, despite the fact that this film is almost 10 years older, Mia Farrow stars in The Haunting of Julia. While the film does feel a little bit like Rosemary’s Baby, with Farrow dealing in the same kind of paranoia, sadness, and sickness, it can’t quite reach those levels of success.
Farrow stars as Julia, a woman who must deal with the sudden death of her only daughter, perhaps at her own hands. While having breakfast, Julia’s daughter begins choking on some food. Her husband Magnus (Keir Dullea) calls the ambulance, but Julia is worried they won’t arrive in time, so she desperately attempts a tracheotomy. By the time the ambulance arrives, Julia is in shock and covered in blood. Two months later she is released from hospital and immediately moves into her own home. Her marriage had already been suffering, and without her daughter, she sees no reason in continuing. While things go well at first, Julia begins thinking she sees and feels her daughter in and around her new home, but the truth is far more frightening.
Although it gets off to a slightly shocking start, The Haunting of Julia quickly slows its pace to a crawl for the first half of the film. Farrow walks around looking sad, and rightfully so, trying to put her life back together and deal with the fact that she very well could have been the reason for her daughter’s death. Her husband is not dealing with things well at all. He wants Julia back at home and is rather aggressively trying to find her. We never saw much of their marriage together, as the only time we see them together is in the opening moments, but Julia talks about the fact that it was on rocky ground before that.
This moment, and a very odd conversation with her doctor, where we never see him speak to her, in the hospital before she leaves, give off the strange impression that there may be other things going on. Why would Julia not even attempt to wait for the ambulance before getting a knife and possibly killing her daughter? Why did we not see the doctor speak with her? You could apply a lot of various theories as to what’s going on in The Haunting of Julia, and it may be the only thing that keeps you around at first.
Eventually Julia begins feeling like her daughter is in her house, or she sees her at the playground or at a nearby school. When a seance takes place in her new home, the psychic says she saw a young girl, but warns Julia to leave. This child haunting her home may not be her daughter at all, and the truth is quite shocking. It’s here where the film picks up, as Julia goes about uncovering the mystery of the girl’s identity.
One by one, people start getting killed in strange ways by someone unseen, leading to a wonderfully shot, and incredibly creepy ending. It’s a scene that manages to be better than the rest of the film, filled with sadness, love, fear, and a truly unsettling feeling. It only adds more questions to the movie, but the discussion of what precisely happened is what makes The Haunting of Julia so interesting.
Unfortunately, the film wasn’t released in North America until 1981, where body counts and blood seemed to be ruling the screens. It has more in common with films like The Changeling than other, more popular horror films. It’s not paced quite as well as The Changeling, but I would have to say that the payoff is greater, and I enjoyed this just a little bit more.
Is The Haunting of Julia Worth Watching?
Farrow’s performance isn’t that much different than Rosemary’s Baby, which could be taken as good or bad, but the solid final half of the film makes up for the rather slow start. The final scene alone makes this worthwhile, and the disturbing mystery at the heart of things adds enough to make this a creepy hit.