A vengeful ghost, a mysterious killer, and a family where everyone has a secret converge in one night of terror in this remake of Francis Ford Coppola's first feature film. Expect my review in The 405 the week of October 6, when the film can be seen in its limited theatrical release. It will be on VOD October 10. Find the film here on Twitter, and here on Facebook.

For now, I talk to Julia about her experience on her first horror project, from Chiller Films and NBC Universal, a remake of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola’s first feature film, 1963's Dementia 13. In the new Dementia 13, Julia plays the lead of Gloria Haloran (the equivalent character, “Lady Haloran”, was played by Eithne Dunne in the original).

Dementia 13 is a very complex, multi-dimensional horror piece that was also pretty experimental for Coppola when he filmed it on the heels of Roger Corman's The Young Racers (1963). As Coppola was assisting Corman on that film in Ireland, and had an idea, he asked Corman to borrow the set, players Patrick Magee, William Campbell, and Luana Anders, to try and realize the idea. After about 10 days, what would become the original Dementia 13 was shot – “Dementia” was the original title, but after finding out that a 1955 film already had that title, Coppola added the sinister “13” and the part of the backstory making the number relevant to the narrative.

Julia has quite the impressive resume in film and theater. Yet, she has also done quite a bit to break gender barriers in the sports world, having won a bronze medal at the young age of 13 in the Adult Women's US East Coast Judo Championships. She then “took on the Maryland educational system and broke the gender barrier in sports in the US by becoming the first girl to play on a boys' soccer team”. Julia's team won the league championship that year.

 Julia started Shelter Films and is the artistic director of Shelter Theatre Group, NYC to give more women more quality opportunities both in front of and behind the camera. Her short film through Shelter Films, 116, will be examined soon in #405Shorts.

Julia, I have to say, your performance in Dementia 13 is really what captivated me most in the film. What drew you to the project?

Thank you! Yes, I love the character Gloria.

The character, absolutely the character. I just thought it was so well-written and not your standard, one-dimensional, crazy, mean mom. They really gave her a lot of heart and soul, and she is very complex – I think Gloria is a very complex character. You know, it's assumed that she's crazy, that she's lost it: and we see that she isn't, she isn't at all. She has second-sight. She sees ghosts, and certainly her daughter is with her the whole time.

The whole film is very complex for a horror film. So, that's what drew me to it. It was great to sink my teeth into this character and really have the freedom to explore it, and to play with it, and the director Rich LeMay really let me go with and have a good time with it. I also feel very safe with him and trust him implicitly. So, it's such a great atmosphere to work in – that helps the acting so much.

(L-R) Julia Campanelli as Gloria Haloran and Marianne Noscheze as Billy Haloran in the thriller horror film “DEMENTIA 13” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films

Your role and performance really reminded of a modern, female Roderick Usher from Poe's “Fall of the House of Usher”. What or who were your main influences in preparing for the role of Gloria Haloran?

With Gloria, I wanted to bring out her humanity. You know, she's fearless, she's wonderfully unfiltered – she's extremely wealthy, and she feels she doesn't have to answer to anybody.

You know, you never really hear about Mr. Haloran, she marries into this old money family, but with that comes of all of this burden: all of this hatred, of family tragedies. While all the children would like to forget it, to move on from it, she really holds on to it – she really clings to it – because I think she feels that the money is what is destroying the family, which is ultimately why she decides to give it all away and not leave any of it to her children.

I wanted to make her not one-dimensional, not two-dimensional, but very three-dimensional: to show her humanity, and show that she does love her children, and that she's not crazy – she may look crazy in the movie when she's doing things like talking to the walls, but you come to find out there is indeed somebody there. She actually believes it – and eventually the other children believe it too. It's a wonderful arc for all the characters, the journey that we go on over the course of one night.

The film, in many ways, is a cautionary tale on the perils of great wealth and a clash of generations inside a family – shown especially in the scene where Gloria speaks the “soul of the sluggard” verse from Proverbs when the family is eating? Do you think that “love of money” is a more important factor in the narrative’s development than the sort of karmic justice that comes to Rose and the incredible guilt that seems to live inside of the Halorans?

I think it [the “soul of the sluggard” scene] sort of tells the story of what's going to happen. It is sort of like a Greek tragedy in terms of what's going to happen, you know? She's trying to tell them: “Look! Change your evil ways or… this could happen.” She knows, too – like any parent. She's had a long history: she’s lost her husband, she's lost her daughter very tragically, and her other children are at their own whims.

So, she is a woman who has experienced great loss, and from that loss comes a lot of knowledge that she tries in her own way to impart to her children. Whether she is the best communicator, I don't know. She certainly lays it all out there at that brunch – it's like, “if you don't listen to me: well, I tried to warn you, and don't listen to mom? Ok. Well, now we have to power through this.” But then, there wouldn't be a story if they did listen to her, so… That's how horror stories go.

What do you enjoy most about Coppola's original? What do you think the new one does better?

Well, it's Coppola.

Absolutely.

I think that, for his first commercially released film, it's kind of epic.

Our version of it, expanded all the characters, sort of gave them so many colors and made them very three-dimensional.

I think the script presented a lot more challenges. Certainly, we had a bigger space to work in, we had more to shoot – I think Coppola shot his in 10 days – we had the luxury of time on our side.

The castle was haunted, legitimately – we had that to work with.

I like that it's in color – the cinematography is absolutely beautiful. I haven't seen the whole film yet, but the clips that I've seen just look gorgeous. You do get a sense of the immense estate, the surroundings, and all of the wonderfully colorful characters – my children, the thugs, the con artists, and even the dolls. It's like this beautiful garden, with so many flowers to pick, that I just don't know where to begin.

Image from the thriller horror film “DEMENTIA 13” a Chiller Films release. Photo courtesy of Chiller Films.

You have quite the impressive history of breaking gender barriers, how does that impact your work as an actress and artist?

From a very early age, I have faced the look of being the second sex. It's getting better, but I have always, for that reason, been an overachiever. I never accepted when people said “no, you can’t do that, you're a girl”, I said, “you’ve just thrown down the gauntlet to me: I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway.”

So, I bring that to my film work, and I actually stopped acting for a long time because of the film roles that were available to me. I just wasn't satisfied with them.

So, I started my own theater company to create work for women in roles that I would want to play, and then went back to school, film school – really, film has always been my passion – and then created a film company, to do the same thing, to give women more opportunities in front of, and behind the camera and just create roles that, you know, I would want to play. I am not looking for a prince, I am looking for a sword, you know? I want to be the one battling. I don’t want to be the one being pushed back with someone saying “oh no! I'll save you!”. No. I'm the savior in this one.

Yeah, sort of balancing out, bringing some equality to the playing field out there. I've always been driven that way. I think that informs all the characters that I play – I play very strong characters, most of the time.

What is next for you as an actress, writer, and director?

Lots of things! I have my first film as a writer/director/producer, and I am acting in it, a short that's currently on the festival circuit, and it’s winning a bunch of awards, so it's doing pretty well, it's called 116. I have another film that’s in post-production called Kill the Monsters directed by Ryan Lonergan. I've seen a rough copy and it is exquisite. I play this very strong German woman, and the character is a hoot!

I've just done a couple music videos ('You Can Do It (Give Up)' by rap star Your Old Droog, directed by Bricolagista! and 'Last to Die in Battle' by rocker Aaron David, Gleason, directed by Jeremiah Kipp) I’ve got a couple of projects in development through Shelter Film (my film company), and Shelter Theatre Group (my theatre company. Two things happening here in New York, and I am putting on a full-length production next year, so… pretty busy.

This was my first horror film, and I just absolutely loved it! I hope there's more out there, in my future.

Thank you Julia!  

Stay tuned for my review of Dementia 13 next week in The 405 with its Oct. 6 release date and on VOD and Digital HD Oct. 10. Also check back for more with Julia as we spot-light 116 in a future edition of #405Shorts. Catch the full trailer below.