Single-take horror about teenage girls and a prank that doesn’t go as planned. Not camp or retro, but atmospheric and neatly put together.
I enjoyed Let’s Scare Julie a lot more than I expected. The publicity information gave the impression of a modern story about inane bimbos and having watched #Horror last year, I wasn’t keen to go through that again. That said, I also watched Let’s Scare Jessica to Death last year and loved it, so if writer/director Jud Cremata had been inspired by that, it must be worth a shot (it was called Let’s Scare Julie to Death in some countries).
Let’s Scare Julie is about – yes – a bunch of teenage girls staying up late to scare each other. The key figures are Emma (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting), a little fragile still from a recent bereavement, and Taylor (Isabel May, Run Hide Fight), whose house they’re in along with three other friends. Having run out of pranks to play on each other (or rather on Emma), they decide to go and give the weird new girl next door a fright. Emma stays behind, as she has a little sister also in the house, looking out for her mates’ return. One comes back screaming, and the others…
Sure, these were catty schoolgirls, not entirely likable; but what was great about the film was how darned believable they were. The first part of Let’s Scare Julie simply involved chitchat, gossip, and teasing amongst the friends, all talking over and around each other: they seemed so natural that I couldn’t tell if they were really good actors or not acting at all. I observed their impromptu slumber party as it happened, but more than that: I was there amongst them. Consequently, when most of the gang donned masks and went to the neighbor’s house, I felt like they’d left me alone, not just Emma. I felt her anxiety with her.
The second half of the film, when the mystery and atmosphere kicked in was very effective. Dark, creepy, and with a true sense of panic. Interestingly, the sudden appearance of two adult male characters was jarring after the all-girl environment for most of the film, and neither of these men were terribly reassuring figures to meet. The only problem at this stage was that, unfortunately, I didn’t quite follow what was happening over at Julie’s. There were hints, but considering all the information came to Emma (and the viewer) by phone or by hearsay, none of what transpired during their late-night visit was made explicit.
Let’s Scare Julie was largely shot and presented in one long take, which certainly adds to the feeling of watching events real-time. It was an ambitious device, especially for a director’s first feature film, but effective. The film in general has a fairly simple plot and undeveloped characters (teenagers, eh?), but it is well put together and aided by better than average teen actors. There aren’t any high energy jump scares, and the suggested themes of guilt or bullying are only present briefly, but the film is certainly worth a watch.
Let’s Scare Julie has its European Premiere at FrightFest, October 2020, and is released on Digital HD on 21 December.