Director: Emanuele De Santi
Writer: Emanuele De Santi
Stars: Jade Matthew, Carol Bolt, Ashleigh Whitfield
Although it’s not of the same level of the jump that, say, Johannes Roberts made between Forest of the Damned (2005) and F (2010), Judy (2014) still marks a considerable improvement over both Emanuele De Santi’s previous film Adam Chaplin (2011) and the other productions previously put together by the Necrostorm production company with which he is closely affiliated (see Taeter City (2012), Hotel Inferno (2013) etc etc). It’s still not a particularly good film – it has that slightly overexposed look and a tendency towards the juvenile which characterizes other Necrostorm productions – but at least it tries to do something more than just thread together a succession of gore sequences and swearing.
The story follows Mary (Orietta Babusci), a young woman who lives alone in a beach-side apartment with her pet dog Judy. After getting lost in a dingy part of town she crosses paths with Ursula, a demented street performer, who takes umbrage with the fact that her pitiful theatricals go unrewarded. Unfortunately for Mary, Ursula also happens to be the leader of ‘the crows’, a gang of similarly run-down street performers who seem to be in league with the devil. Among other things, these goons – who have a very strict code of misconduct – drag around a box which is covered in nails and which seems to contain either a demon or a contortionist (none of this is ever explained). Anyway, whoever these cackling lunatics may be, it means very bad news for the unfortunate Mary, who swiftly finds herself under siege in punishment for her earlier dismissive behavior.
It’s safe to say that Judy isn’t exactly overburdened by narrative or logic, in fact it’s amazing that something so minimal could be stretched over an eighty minute running time. There are hints at sub-plots bubbling beneath the surface: there’s a prologue in which a pierrot – also played by Babusci – is punished for trying to run away, is she some kind of alter ego of Mary’s? And what’s Mary’s backstory? The strap-line ‘bad things happen to bad people’ implies that she might have some done something in her past, but this is never explained. Certainly, she seems rather flaky and damaged, but this could as easily be down to bad scripting as anything intentional on the part of the writers. And why oh why is the film named after the character’s dog (which, apart from anything else, only lasts for about ten minutes before disappearing).
Whatever the case, the film itself amounts to about twenty minutes of boring exposition and then another hour of Mary walking around her apartment and making phone calls to her friend or mother. Babusci is rather wooden but De Santi does at least try to generate some tension, something which none of the other Necrostorm productions have ever bothered to do; although he also has a rather unfortunate tendency to focus on actions – Mary puts her keys down! She locks her car! – which never then lead to any kind of subsequent consequence. The street performers themselves make for a peculiar bunch, especially a particularly creepy character with a sack over their head and luminescent buttons for eyes. It’s a step up, for sure, but it’s a step up from a very low baseline.