Written by: Matt Cunningham, P.J. Pettiette
Directed by: P.J. Pettiette
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Valerie Azlynn, and Alicia Leigh Willis
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Sex, blood, revenge…and that’s just their first date.
I was going to begin this review by talking about bad dates; however, in hindsight, it occurs to me that Julia X is actually a tale of star-crossed lovers who are made for each other. It just so happens that each of them forgot to leave out “butchering random strangers” in the “interests” part of their online dating profile.
Kevin Sorbo is the male component; known only as “The Stranger,” he’s a notorious serial killer who lures girls onto dates, murders them, then brands them with a letter of the alphabet. Julia (Valerie Azlynn) is unlucky letter “X,” and the night is going well for The Stranger until she reveals that she, too, is a predator. Along with her sister, Jessica, she also targets men to take out the aggression that stems from an abusive childhood. The tables are turned, the hunter becomes the hunted, and every other manner of cliché is then emptied out in bloody fashion.
At first, Julia X seems like it’s going to be a really thin concept laboriously stretched over ninety minutes. As the film jumps right into things with Julia and The Stranger’s date, there seems to be precious little build-up. We actually learn about his serial exploits over the opening credits, and it perhaps would have been more effective to actually see him with another victim first for variety’s sake. Instead, as the film unfolded, I got this sinking feeling that I was about to see Kevin Sorbo yell at and beat up this girl for the entire film; admittedly, the twist that reveals that Julia’s just as insane raised me out of my seat. However, even this comes a bit too soon, as the film then just becomes another thin concept that is indeed stretched out until the film’s conclusion. Julia X quickly becomes an over-the-top, sometimes tedious farce that resembles a live action, 90 minute episode of “Itchy & Scratchy” as our trio of nutcases bludgeon, maim, and scream at each other.
Nabbing Sorbo for this is an inspired bit of stunt-casting, though. Usually known for his charming, almost achingly noble good guy personas, he seems to be having the time of his life playing a twisted masochist. You only need to look to his character to figure out that Julia X is an intentional farce, as he constantly spits out twisted one liners (there’s one about Julie Andrews that left the entire audience roaring). If you’re expecting this to be one of those grim-faced affairs where a girl exacts revenge on a cowering guy, look elsewhere. Sorbo’s character actually relishes what he’s wandered into, as he takes the notion of switchblade romance to an entirely new level. Maybe in another life, he and Julia could have been quite a murderous tag team.
Here, though, they’re at odds since Julia and Jessica have a deeply ingrained mistrust of men. The two actresses are fine enough; certainly easy on the eyes (but perhaps not on the ears--they’re quite shrill and catty towards each other), they’re a commanding presence. You’ll probably hear a lot about how these two represent strong women in a horror movie, which is certainly misguided. Maybe it’s just me, but letting childhood trauma define you isn’t “strong”; real strength would involve moving on and conquering your past in a healthy fashion. Instead, they take it out on every man they meet, and many will mistake the fairer sex engaging in such bludgeoning to be some sort of feminist oeuvre.
But let’s not delude ourselves--this is really just yet another dumb slasher movie--sort of. See, it even kind of falters at that level because the body count is rather low. At one point, Joel David Moore wanders in to possibly increase the body count; imagine his surprise when he thinks he’s in for some kinky sex action, only to discover that he’s not the only guy tied up in the girl’s demented house (which is actually quite well-realized--they’ve decorated the place to resemble their childhood home, which is an inspired bit of production design). If that weren’t enough, the flick tosses in another gratuitous cameo that’s probably its finest moment, save for a ridiculous post-credits sequence. I’d hesitate to call this a good movie, but it’s sometimes clever and entertaining, even if it reads like a freshman year treatise on violence and feminism. Gory, tactless, but not without a keen sense of self-awareness, Julia X is stupid fun at best. While it’s currently stuck without distribution, I can’t help but wonder if some brave studio will try to open it on Valentine’s Day weekend. Nothing says romance like watching a couple of psychos throw each other down a flight of stairs. Rent it!
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