Let’s Scare Julie (2019)
★ / ★★★★
The gimmick of Jud Cremata’s “Let’s Scare Julie” is the illusion of having been shot in a single take. But strip away this element and it becomes readily apparent that the picture offers nothing of value. Here is yet another movie that places all of its eggs in one basket and the gamble does not pay off. If you wish to sit through a film that feels like it is never going to end, despite having a running time of only eighty minutes, on top of being forced to endure irritating, shallow, and dumb teenage girls, then I bestow this unpolished and unfinished garbage my most enthusiastic recommendation.
Where should I start?
The first thirty minutes is spent in a bedroom where characters prank each other and tell scary stories—only the pranks are neither scary nor funny and the would-be terrifying accounts surrounding the house across the street sound exactly like any old neighborhood story. One sits through this first half hour marinating in sheer anger due to its lack of originality, imagination, creativity, or even a modicum of energy. When actors are not reciting their lines like robots, it comes across as though they were tasked to come up with what to say on the spot.
A suggestion for Cremata: How about actually putting in time and effort with your screenplay? Take pride in your work. For instance, shape it so that Emma, our heroine, played by Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson, is actually someone we can get behind. It is not enough that she has a sob story. Both of her parents being dead and the fact that she, along with her young sister named Lilly (Dakota Baccelli), must live with her insensitive cousin (Isabel May) is not good enough. What is it about this character that is worthy of the story being told? Not only is the lack of specificity astounding, Emma is written without sharpness, intelligence, fire, or resourcefulness. She is required to possess these characteristics especially when her little sister goes missing. But because she does not, it is like following a dry leaf being blown to and fro by the wind.
Surround the protagonist with different personalities who are actually relatable in some way. Taylor’s friends (Odessa A’zion, Brooke Sorenson, Jessica Sarah Flaum) are nasty pieces of work—but not nasty in a pointed way that suggests something deeper might be going on with the characters. They’re the generic spoiled brats, giggly white girls who have gotten away with so much due to their privilege. Notice how they welcome Emma the black girl upon meeting her. They make fun of her, they take advantage of her lack of confidence, they touch her in inappropriate ways, they go through her personal belongings. They have no respect for other people’s personal space; they don’t even notice that the new girl is feeling incredibly uncomfortable. They’re selfish. Yes, it’s ugly to watch. But there is no point behind these images. So it feels like our time is not being respected.
A girl named Julie just moved in across the street—in a house that is supposed to be creepy or haunted. Taylor and her vapid crew (with the exception of Emma) decide to go over there and pull a prank on Julie… because there is nothing else to do. This is when the work ought to have bared its fangs—that because these girls decide to bite off more than they can chew, they deserve some sort of comeuppance. However, at the same time, a screenplay with perspective—or simply having genuine love for its characters—can and will argue that whatever physical violence befalls these girls are not deserved—despite how we feel about them.
“Let’s Scare Julie” reeks of pessimism. The illusion of a single take is haphazardly put together. I noticed the first “trick” (translation: bad editing) not ten minutes into the film. As already mentioned, it doesn’t go out of its way to establish characters we can grow to care about—not even on the most superficial level. And get this: it does not have a third act. It just ends. The terrified Emma runs downstairs and… the movie simply fades to black. Did they run out of budget? Was there a massive storm that ended up destroying the set beyond repair? Was there a viral outbreak and everybody had to go home? Or did the writer-director simply stop giving a—? (A better question: Did he even start?)
Cremata, if you’re reading this, I’m waiting for an explanation. We demand it. And we deserve it.