THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1976) – bless the gods of Netflix Instant Watch for bringing a gorgeous, immaculate transfer of this long lost ghost story to light. Guaranteed to take its place as one of the classic 70′s horror movies the second more people see it, this subtle, sensitive, quivering, death-obsessed ghost story has previously only been available on VHS or in tattered old prints, but here you can soak it up in all its gauzy, mid-70′s grandeur, the way it was meant to be seen, shot in 5000 shades of brown, ochre, gray, and umber. Mia Farrow plays a mother whose daughter dies in a horrific opening scene. Farrow has a nervous breakdown and holes up in the hospital until her domineering husband, Kier Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey, Black Christmas) pries her out, cajoling her to “get on with things.” Five seconds later, Farrow flees and moves into a new house which contains some grim secrets of its own. But, rather than flee its sinister past Farrow is drawn into it, pushing forward as she attempts to solve the mystery of her haunted house because she can’t solve the mystery of her own haunted heart.
This is the very definition of a slow-burn movie and it redefines understatement in a way that can get counterproductive. For example, you’d never figure out that Mark (Tom Conti) is actually Kier Dullea’s adopted brother, and if you blink you’ll miss the fact that Dullea is broke and Farrow has all the money in their family (which is vital to the plot). The information is dished out, but so obliquely that it sometimes passes by without registering. The horror comes in tiny slices, but as the movie winds to its darkly shimmering conclusion you wind up with a sudden handful of scenes that feel like the bleakest bits of film ever put onscreen, and the final shot is one that will haunt you for a long time. Is this movie perfect? No. But it does have a lot to offer, and I wound up enjoying it far more than I thought I would. Farrow is at her best both in terms of looks (she’s stunning here) and in terms of acting (she owns this movie the way Klaus Kinski owns Crawlspace). The soundtrack is a love-it-or-hate-it mostly-electronic score by Colin Towns, the scope cinematography is organically cluttered, and there isn’t a false step in the film. Based on Peter Straub’s Julia and originally titled Full Circle (for reasons that become obvious) this is a classic 70′s ghost story that somehow never got seen. This Halloween you’ve got a chance to correct that. (Watch it!)