Time to go back in time to the age of good films…or bad ones really. At any rate here is the latest Retro Review from our favorite gal pal, Bleeding Dead. Read on peeps!
ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)
Directed by: Alfred Sole
Stars: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, and Paul E. Sheppard
MPAA Rating: R
Alice Sweet Alice (or Communion, or Holy Terror mind you) is about twelve year old Alice Spages who is a little bit off. Often remit by adult’s love, who advert more of their focus to her younger sister Karen, Alice has made a hobby of collecting an odd assortment of things, including cockroaches, her sister’s favorite items, and creepy flesh colored masks. Karen’s first communion awakens tension between the two sisters and their single mother as Alice becomes increasingly jealous by the attention given to Karen. Jealously might possibly turn into rage as Karen ends up dead in the church and Alice is missing from sight during the murder. Everyone begins to suspect and nearly convict Alice for her sister’s murder and others that show up afterwards, but as nothing ever changes, not even in death, Alice blames Karen for the murders. At a loss what to believe the adults struggle to keep composure in this religious horror novelty.
The 1976 film may have died off entirely had it not been Brooke Shield’s debut role which pushed the film into three different releases, under three different titles no less. Thankfully the independent slasher flick did receive more attention than normally allotted to such films as Alice, Sweet Alice is one of my bizarre favorites. The heavily played religious overtones create a tediously weird film about God, family, and murder. Uncanny in most aspects, I find particular discomfort to the effeminately obese pedophile that lives down stairs to Alice, who doesn’t even have the shame to clean the piss stain off the crotch of his pants. His presence whenever on screen, even to this day pits inside my stomach and I grow severely uncomfortable. I attest that Alice’s flesh painted doll mask be held in the unsettling mask collection, along with such notorieties as Michael Meyers and Leatherface’s. It’s really quite creepy and when paired with the Catholic school raincoat makes a fitting murder getup. The deaths aren’t drenched in gore but blood is present and flows realistically throughout. The film tries to constantly keep you guessing to whom the murderer is, and of course it’s not expected, but not inaptly conceived either.
A natural reaction to this film is wanting to slap just about everyone involved, most adamantly spoiled Karen and Aunt Annie. All the adults carry their roles in perfervid acts; everyone feels a fervid need to yell about everything. When the screaming does dispend the acting from Paula Sheppard becomes lucent and quite good, unfortunately she never really did anything else besides this. As said this is Brooke Shields first role, and while she’s not exactly great she did capture the obnoxious and spoiled nature to Karen. The cinematography was mixed for me, the DP had close facial shots that were more than unflattering at times, but then would make up for it with artistic angels of the murders. The latter which felt reminiscent of Italian giallo’s; the dad even takes on his own investigation for the murders.
The killer paired with Alice’s pre-sociopathic nature commonly has provoked discussion as to who did what, and whether or not Alice was involved. A quality I like about the film as you can re-watch it and view from different sides. The film’s overacting and low budget show its age but being a nostalgic I don’t really care. At the same time Alice, Sweet Alice is immortal in its creep factor as it still unsettling for modern audiences. The beginning title sequence of a communion dressed girl with the films haunting theme opens great for tampering with the atmosphere, and the film continues to follow in such manner until the very last frame. The last scene that’s placed inside the church brings the film to an even new disturbing level as we see what our killer is capable of and what sweet Alice is lurking behind those eyes. I quite love this film for the fair bit of suspense and sinister edge. Not for all horror fans but those who love giallo or are tolerant to low budget slashers are likely to enjoy this, if not love it.
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