Whether they’re unfounded or not, accusations of misogyny have long been commonplace in the genre, where women are constantly persecuted by male aggressors with phallic weapons and motives frequently rooted in sexual frustration. Julia X doesn’t want to settle for existing in a questionable grey area, it wants to prove every horror detractor right and give its women-hating serial killer a pair of victims who are unlikable, raving psychopaths. Forget being misogynists, writers Matt Cunningham and P.J. Pettiette – also in the director’s chair – are uninformed misanthropes.
The one-time Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) stars as The Stranger, an online dating creeper who kidnaps his victims after coffee house meet-ups and tortures them, iron-branding each woman with a letter from the alphabet while listening to the soothing sounds of The Carpenters. Julia’s (Valerie Azlynn) first date with the villain seems to be going great at first – complete with a pointless daydream bathroom encounter that hints at mutual attraction that’s never explored afterwards – but after abruptly leaving, she finds herself in an abandoned warehouse with an X on her backside.
In what is easily the second worst scene transition this year (Conan beats it by a mile), Julia is driven to a dirt cul-de-sac and manages to escape while her captor dumps his previous victim, running from the middle of nowhere to the woods to a field and then into an abandoned house. After a tediously long free-for-all, where the unlikely couple goes back and forth punching each other in the face, Julia brings The Stranger back to her childhood home to commence the maiming with the help of her sister, Jessica (Alicia Leigh Willis).
What follows is, essentially, an hour of Kevin Sorbo punching the two women in the face – and vice versa – while shouting lame wisecracks like “This is the best date I’ve had in years.” The ironic humor feels like a collection of failed rim shots, made more painful by the fact that all of the characters are terrible, terrible people. The script fails to establish someone to root for and it basically amounts to men and women going out of their way to hurt each other just because. A sense of sympathy might’ve been the intention of a molestation-laden back story for the two sisters but then one of them goes out of their way to drag Joel David Moore into the mix without him doing anything wrong, rendering it futile. A traditional ‘women turn the tables on their aggressor’ might’ve been formulaic, but it would’ve at least functioned on some level, for better or worse.
Julia X sets out to be a trashy good time but comes away unjustifiably smug and a bore. The humor falls flat, the cinematography and set design is hideous and cheap (two pipes show up in one of the house’s bedroom more than once, making the set look like a boiler room) and – worst of all – all the characters are unredeemable and hateful. Pettiette’s commentary on the sexes is meaningless, mean and the most misogynistic thing to hit the big screen since Deadgirl.
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