Teenage Emma (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson) is sleeping in her bedroom when someone eases the covers off her and begins to wake her: she jumps up with a start, and races to the corner, confused and terrified, but hey, it's fine, it's only her friends who are playing a prank on her. She is none too pleased about this, and even less pleased when they start snooping around her room to see what they can find that might interest them: some vinyl albums, a flute, a voodoo doll - a what? As the girls chat, it becomes clear they all share a curiosity about what was across the road in the big house opposite Emma's - is it something as scary as they've heard?
One take movies are rarely what they seem, as there are usually at least a few instances of cuts hidden in whip pans or closeups or even computer graphic trickery, if you have the budget for them. Writer and director here Jud Cremata assuredly did not and his cuts in his supposed "one take movie" were there to see if you watched out for them, which you could easily do if you lost patience with its characters and plotting, which came at the audience in a tumult of chatter and roaming camera. Should you have no patience for realistic depictions of the way teenage girls interacted in the early twenty-first century, this was not the film for you.
On the other hand, if you were receptive to a horror that was determined to keep you wrongfooted and off guard, then Cremata and his small cast - who sounded like they were improvising, though in a natural, conversational manner - might find a sympathetic viewer in you. The girls may all talk over each other, but they managed to make their characters distinctive in that chit-chat so that you quickly had the measure of who was whom and what their likely reactions would be, though their ease with the schoolgirl prank suggested they were not quite as empathetic to others' feelings as they really should be, a trait they may or may not grow out of as they mature.
Or should that be... "IF they mature"? One of their number, Madison (Odessa A'zion) is the ringleader when it comes to the tricks and fooling, and wastes no opportunity to tease (or indeed, victimise) Emma, either because she is hiding an attraction to her or more troublingly, because Emma is the only non-white member of their social circle. We get a sense that the black girl could easily be an outsider if she does not tread carefully with these friends, despite being the cousin of one of them, Taylor (Isabel May), but they may land her in it no matter how tentative she is about appealing to them. This is down to another prank instigated by Madison, this one not inflicted on anyone in this circle of mates, but on the inhabitant of that house across the street. This would be the one containing the titular Julie, who all sorts of urban legends are told about, but we can surmise does not get out much.
Other than that, we can tell very little, since the clarity of storytelling here was deliberately muddy, all with the intent of creating a kind of chaos of unease and eventual fright, as for example, Emma's uncle, who presumably is meant to be babysitting but is zonked out on the couch, rouses himself to confront her while sporting some very visible and very fresh bloodstains which are not his own blood. Then there's the way that not everyone comes back from Julie's - Emma stays behind too look after her kid sister (Dakota Baccelli), but has the little girl gone with the others without telling her? And who was answering Emma when she thought she was talking to the freaked-out Paige (Jessica Sarah Flaum) behind the locked bathroom door? The conundrums mount up, rendering what should be simple surprisingly complicated and discombobulating; if you were keen on the early style (based in the director's reality television experience) you would be thoroughly entertained - and unnerved. Music by Katisse Buckingham (on flute).
[Signature Entertainment presents Let's Scare Julie on Digital HD 21st December 2020.]