With a long and successful career spanning genres, Mia Farrow may not be considered a horror icon, but she’s certainly deserving of the title in terms of quality over quantity. The two genre efforts in which she starred are exemplary horror movies of their respective eras; while Rosemary’s Baby has been widely lauded since its release in 1968 (Roman Polanski’s personal life controversies notwithstanding), The Haunting of Julia – known internationally as Full Circle – is a hidden gem ripe for rediscovery.
Based on Peter Straub’s 1975 novel Julia, the 1977 British film is directed by Richard Loncraine (Firewall, Wimbledon) and written by Dave Humphries (Quadrophenia), with Xtro filmmaker Harry Bromley Davenport receiving a “based on an adaptation by” credit. Although ostensibly a haunted house tale, its ambiguity also allows it to be viewed as a dramatic character study. Scream Factory shines a well-needed light on the atmospheric chiller with a new 4K UHD + Blu-ray edition.
Bookended by harrowing scenes, the film opens with Julia Lofting (Farrow) desperately attempting to save her choking daughter (Sophie Ward, Young Sherlock Holmes) by performing an emergency tracheotomy, only to inadvertently kill the young girl. (The Heimlich maneuver, first published in medical journals three years prior, was not widely known at the time.) Like much of the violence in the film, the incident is implied rather than shown, leaving it to haunt the viewer much like Julia.
The grief-stricken mother separates from her callous husband (Keir Dullea, 2001: A Space Odyssey) and buys a large, fully furnished house in an attempt to separate herself from the past. Julia’s investigation into the strange occurrences that plague her new home lead her to believe that a ghost is forcing people to carry out revenge on its behalf, although their deaths more often come in the form of The Omen-esque freak accidents. The haunting final image lingers on screen as the credits roll and in the viewer’s mind long after that.
Farrow’s personal life may have been in a bit of turmoil at the time of production, which lends itself to a vulnerable performance not unlike her remarkable turn in Rosemary’s Baby. Reportedly reluctant to make another horror movie, she opts to play into the character’s nervous breakdown. Dullea, by contrast, gives a one-dimensional performance for a one-dimensional character.
Recognizable faces among the supporting cast include Tom Conti (The Duelists) as Julia’s loyal friend, Jill Bennett (For Your Eyes Only) as Julia’s sister-in-law, Cathleen Nesbitt (Family Plot) as the house’s former owner, and Peter Sallis (Wallace and Gromit) as a nosey neighbor, plus Nigel Havers (Empire of the Sun) and future Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes in bit parts as a real estate agent and a librarian, respectively.
The Haunting of Julia has been newly restored in 4K from the original negative with Dolby Vision and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Peter Hannan’s (Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) gloomy, neo-Gothic cinematography is beautifully presented, as is Colin Towns’ (Vampire’s Kiss, The Puppet Masters) light, piano-based score with eerie synth embellishments; both of which reflect the film’s melancholic tone. The new edition has reversible artwork featuring the alternate Full Circle key art.
The set’s all-new extras begin with a brief introduction by Loncraine, who modestly refers to his effort as “nearly a good movie,” preceding the feature. Loncraine also recorded an audio commentary, in which he confesses he’s neither a horror fan nor a fan of Straub’s source material. He’s a bit hard on the movie, but moderator/film historian Simon Fitzjohn comes to its defense and manages to impress the director with an understanding of the film that surpasses his own.
Conti and actress Samantha Gates sit down for interviews, both of whom fondly reflect on the production and the final product, in addition to expressing hope for the film to reach a new audience. Film critic Kim Newman provides a fascinating and thoughtful appreciation for the movie as well as Farrow as an actress. Fitzjohn guides a tour of the original filming locations as they appear today.
Parallels can be drawn between The Haunting of Julia, The Changeling, and Don’t Look Now; each slow-burner follows a bereaved parent caught in a haunting involving their children. I’m surprised The Haunting of Julia has yet to receive the remake treatment, as its trauma-based horrors remain potent and its arthouse style would feel right at home under the A24 banner. Hopefully the 4K edition allows a new generation to be bewitched by its meditation on grief through a genre lens.
The Haunting of Julia is available now on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray via Scream Factory.