Writer/director Jud Cremata’s Let’s Scare Julie is, if nothing else, an incredibly impressive feat of filmmaking. So goes the story, the movie’s brief 83 minute run-time was shot in one continuous take which plays out in approximate real time. Like the film or not, one has to appreciate the work that went into such an endeavor.
My understanding is that they filmed it four times over four different evenings and selected the best overall take. That written, there are some very obvious edits in here, but I’m guessing these were to get rid of line flubs or to improve pacing. Essentially I do want to believe that this is truly one take.
After the death of their father, Emma (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson) and her little sister Lilly (Dakota Baccelli) move in with their cousin Taylor (Isabel May) and their Uncle Vince (Blake Robbins).
One night, Taylor’s friends Madison (Odessa A’zion), Jess (Brooke Sorenson), and Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum) film themselves waking Emma up, trying to scare her, in an attempt to make a viral video.
Later the friends decide to don creepy masks and prank the girl who just moved in across the street – the titular Julie – a girl they know very little about other than the fact that she appears gaunt and wears a scarf over her face. And everything goes to hell. Actually, considering how tame of a horror movie this is, “everything goes to heck” seems more apt.
I will happily give the ensemble cast here a lot of credit. They make the first act’s slumber party feel incredibly genuine and natural. Further, Johnson and Flaum really shine when the film gets going.
Unfortunately, that’s the biggest problem with Let’s Scare Julie; it never really gets going. Sure, there are some spooky moments here and there, and the final 20 minutes or so are reasonably tense. But while it startled me occasionally, it never scared me. I never found myself particularly invested in the plight of the characters or their well-being.
Granted, it being such a short film, there wasn’t a lot of time for character development to make me care. Still, this essentially functions as a found footage movie running in real time, I wish it had been a lot more intense than it was.
With the exception of Lilly, and maybe Emma (depending on how you look at the character), there aren’t many likeable people in here. The opening prank felt cruel and repugnant, and the following plan for pranking Julie is even worse. I can understand that teenagers can be awful people, but give me someone that I can latch on to.
The film also waits way too long to bring up its anti-bullying message, a message that I’m entirely onboard with. While it sets that up vaguely in the first act, it more comes across as peer pressure rather than actual bullying. When the message truly comes into play, it’s too little too late. An afterthought. Lip service.
Let’s Scare Julie isn’t a bad film per se. There is some really impressive work being done. But admittedly, I found myself far more fascinated by the filmmaking techniques than the film itself, which is a shame.