THE HAUNTING OF JULIA -- At the K-B MacArthur.
Filmed in velvety browns, with shafts of sunlight filtered through old windows, "The Haunting of Julia" is a definite cut above the current horror movie cliche, but yet not up to the classic psychological ghost-story level it aims at.
It opens with a truly terrifying scene. This is an ordinary breakfast, in an apparently happy family. As the parents prattle inconsequentially, their pretty child sneaks an apple -- she was told to eat her breakfast first -- and begins to choke on it. They quickly realize the danger and go into a frenzy of helpless activity, but by the time the emergency squad arrives, the child is dead and the mother, having unsuccessfully attempted a tracheotomy, is covered with her blood.
This grisly flip, from the placid routine whose very dailiness makes it seem invulnerable to sudden and extreme tragedy, has more of the real essence of horror to it than any number of walks down dark passages to the accompaniment of jangly background music. Unfortunately, after this one fresh approach, the film turns to dark, noisy walks. Those are well done for what they are, the film having a certain artistic standard, from the eye of director Richard Loncraine to the performances of Mia Farrow, Tom Conti and Several of the actors in smaller parts.
But it lacks the psychological logic of a good ghost story. There are no end of superficial connections between the opening scene and the following events, but they are clumsy coincidences, rather than supernatural extensions of the original experience. It's a case of pity and shouting "Boo!" rather than pity and fear.