If you have been waiting in earnest for another brutally violent tale of rape and revenge in the vein of "Ms. 45" or the immortal "I Spit on Your Grave," then the new psycho-thriller "Julia" is probably right up your dirty alley.It tells the story of a sweet and shy young woman named Julia (Ashley C. Williams) who, as the film opens, arrives at the apartment of a guy she recently met at work for a first date, only to be drugged and gang-raped by him and his buddies before being tossed onto a beach to die. Emotionally devastated by the attack but unwilling to go to the police, she quickly slips into a dangerous spiral of self-loathing until she stumbles into a strange therapy group whose leader (Jack Noseworthy) has a radical method for rape victims to once again take control of their lives--patients seek out sleazy men in bars and proceed to hurt them in ways ranging from throwing a drink in the face in a bar to castrating them in mid-seduction. The only caveat is that she is not to go after any of her own attackers--the lack of emotional connection is part of the therapy--and that becomes more difficult to obey when one of them turns up in her life again.
I must admit that I found myself of two minds while watching this undeniably grim film. On the one hand, I actively disliked the utter lack of character development, the general implausibility of the storyline (which gets really ridiculous towards the end) and the incredibly brutal levels of violence on display. While the rape scene is presented in a more impressionistic manner that conveys the horror of such an attack without lingering upon it in a potentially distasteful manner, other moments, such as the first castration, are so bloodily graphic that they take one out of the movie. On the other hand, it has been made with an undeniable style and skill by writer/director Matthew A. Brown, even if that style has been deployed in the service of a story as squalid as this. It also contains a strong and effective performance by Ashley C. Williams as a woman who endures a painful ordeal that nevertheless allows her to at least break out of her shell and take control of her own life at last. Her work may not be enough to make "Julia" worth watching as a whole but if it does eventually catch on with fans of extreme contemporary horror, it will be due in large part to her efforts.One final observation. If Ashley C. Williams seems vaguely familiar to you, it probably means that you caught her appearance in the infamously grotesque cult sensation "The Human Centipede." Needless to say, this film is somewhat of a step up but while I don't pretend to know enough about the business to give career advice to anyone, I would humbly suggest that she find herself a light and frothy comedy to appear in as quickly as possible.