For all of her critical acclaim, Mia Farrow has not been an actress to shy away from horror. However, that does not mean that she blindly took on projects. Her horror heroines are marked with a steady determination and strong emotional arc. From the paranoid and pregnant Rosemary to the unhinged caretaker of the Antichrist, Farrow chooses scripts throughout the genre that allow for real acting and character development.
The Haunting of Julia (aka Full Circle), admittedly one of the lesser films on her resume, features one of the more realistic protagonists in all of horror. Farrow plays Julia, a mother who tragically loses her young daughter to a choking accident. The child was the only thing holding her marriage together and she is quickly separated.
Julia is grieving. She’s also emotionally unstable. She appears to have developed depression and begins to separate herself from the outside world. Everything outside of her store window-ready decor reminds her of her late child and closes her off.
It doesn’t help that she’s seeing visions of her dead daughter everywhere she goes. Is she really being haunted? And why can’t anyone in her new neighborhood tell her the whole truth about her new house?
Farrow, wearing her signature cropped blonde hair, manages to make Julia an unrecognizable character. Her body language is totally removed from everything else in her filmography. Even the brief onscreen moments before her child’s death are marked with an uncharacteristic uncertainty.
She never makes direct eye contact unless her eyes are masked by a camera lens. When forced to confront someone, she loses the ability to talk or reason. She needs to consider every possible course of action before committing to one and her instincts are usually wrong. Who in their right mind goes for a sharp knife when a child is choking?
The Haunting of Julia‘s biggest mistake is not making this a character study in the style of Repulsion. Every moment spent away from Julia is a wasted opportunity. The film is typical 1970s British horror in its melodramatic haunted house gags and unyielding score.
If the first few scenes weren’t so tightly focused on Julia, the general horror exposition would be welcome. The big scares without Julia are effective on their own. They just do nothing to advance the fascinating character Mia Farrow creates.
The Haunting of Julia is a quiet little relic of a type of horror no longer created. It’s all about one character but intent on scaring the audience. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic and the story doesn’t even try to stay internally consistent. The biggest thing going for it is a look into the method of Mia Farrow. Julia is another challenging and complex character that lets her flex her muscles in an entirely different way.
Have you seen The Haunting of Julia? How about Mia Farrow’s work in horror in general? What do you think? Sound off below.