Following a group of teen girls as they set out to prank a reclusive new neighbour, Let’s Scare Julie is a surburban horror that, if pitched right, could show the horror that surrounds us in our domesticity. We expect things to go wrong here and there is a tension that exists as we wait to see what the plot’s payoff will be. But the film struggles to craft interesting, realistic characters and instead ends up with some closer to caricature. The horror genre has a number of the finer representations of the American teen but more readily fails to understand its target audience and ends up talking down to them.
You can see where writer-director Jud Cremata is coming from in his approach and I applaud the ambition of his debut feature. I’d be interested in seeing where Cremata goes here because there is skill here. But on a technical level this film is surprisingly lacking, often confusingly shot and lit, and, as proceedings take on a seemingly more supernatural tone, is absent the scares needed to have an impact. The largest genre fingerprints on this film are the Paranormal Activity series, from the look of the film (it’s not found footage but Let’s Scare Julie to Death does have a handheld, digital quality to it) to the escalation of events in the second half and an ending that will surely prove divisive. But this is a work that suffers poorly when compared to the aforementioned franchise’s best.
I wanted to like Let’s Scare Julie to Death more and there are moments where the pieces fall into place. An exchange between characters will sing or the camera will land on an eerie shot. But for the most pass this is a work that is absent of likeable characters, effective scares or technical prowess to make its concept work.