Wednesday, March 08, 2017
Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
DIRECTOR: Alfred Sole
Paula E. Sheppard
Alice is a withdrawn twelve-year-old girl. Jealous of her younger sister who is getting all of her mother's attention. When her younger sister, Karen, is brutally murdered at her own communion, they all suspect a jealous Alice of committing this crime. Soon her neighbours, family and anyone close to her start turning up dead, and those who are still alive are left to wonder if a twelve-year-old girl is capable of the crimes?
I remember when I was a young kid and would spend an hour at the video store just browsing the video store shelves. I wasn't a big horror movie fan growing up. In fact, I was pretty much scared and would walk past the horror section. It wasn't until my teenage years where I began working in a video store that started my obsession with horror cinema. I mention this because I can still remember being creeped out by the iconic VHS cover for Alice, Sweet Alice. It would be fifteen years later when I finally got to see what freaked me out as a kid.
Looking at the poster for Alice, Sweet Alice. I thought I was in for a standard stalk and slash sort of horror film. A killer who stalks young women and brutally murders them. I could be forgiven for assuming because the poster features a mask inside a shopping bag, a kitchen knife stabbed into a doll. I had no idea I was about to watch a movie that involved an evil child as the possible killer. I, myself, was not prepared for this bizarre and freakish little entry into the slasher genre.
I don't class myself as very well versed when it comes to the whole Giallo sub-genre. I have probably seen roughly ten Giallo movies in my thirty years of existence. Alice, Sweet Alice doesn't feel like it was made in the US. This feels almost European in its approach to its storytelling and vision. This is a slasher movie that gives the audience more than the basic tropes of the genre and delivers something wildly outlandish and at times uncomfortable. You could slap Italian subtitles on this one, and it would feel at home amongst Dario Argento or Mario Bava.
The movie is more than just a simple slasher and touches on some pretty disturbing subject matter. The movie opens with a child being murdered. We have scenes where a perverted neighbour tries to molest a twelve-year-old girl. It also features a scene where a young girl strangles a kitten on camera. I'm sure no animals were harmed during the making of this film, but it's a rather confronting scene. Let's not even get started on the priest being stabbed in the throat in front of a church full of people. I'm sure this would have caused some debate from the religious community.
One of the big surprises that I enjoyed about the movie was the reveal of the killer. This isn't a movie that waits until the end of the film to pull the mask of the killer. It happens two-thirds of the way through the film. So for the rest of the movie, we as an audience are well aware of who the killer is yet the characters are none the wiser. It makes the scenes where the killer is now interacting with major characters without the mask on that much creepier. We don't know if the killer will or won't strike. The scene at the end in the church is a brutal and standout scene.
My biggest problem with the movie comes down to some of the acting. Early on, the scenes of Alice and Karen fighting, as children do, become very tiresome. These two turn out to be some of the most annoying child characters I've seen in a movie in a very long time. Even after Karen is killed, Alice spends most of the movie whinging. We are subjected to the adults blaming her for everything which makes her complain persistently. This is the movies biggest issue for me. I actually enjoyed the rest.
In mentioning that the two children characters are awfully annoying. I can't deny that Paula E. Sheppard gives a pretty great performance when she isn't complaining. She is put into situations that involve themes of pedophilia and murder and still delivers a fine performance. Also, it was great to see a very young Brooke Shields as Karen. You could see this girl would become a star. Even in such a small role, she makes a great impression. Funny that Paula E. Sheppard was the one who wouldn't really go on to do much else, but Brooke Shields became the big star.
Lastly, Alice, Sweet Alice is genuinely creepy. The yellow rain jacket and the creepy make-up and see-through mask are quite chilling. We have a few very uncomfortable scenes that just make this even harder to watch. There are also a few fantastic jump scares that worked very well. The tone, mood and build up in these moments were expertly handled. Two scenes that are done in stairwells even caught me by surprise. This is a pretty eerie film from beginning to end. It never really stops or slows down to give the audience a rest.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A little girl is strangled to death.
- A girl strangles a kitten.
- A man is smacked in the face repeatedly with a shoe.
- A priest is stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife.
- A man is stabbed in the chest twice.
- A woman is stabbed in the feet and legs.
- A man is stabbed in the shoulder.
- The killer hits a man in the head with a brick.
- A man is rolled out of the top floor of a building to his death.
Alice, Sweet Alice was a movie that I assumed was always perceived as a classic in the slasher genre. I always saw the VHS cover and thought it was groundbreaking as it was always so vivid in my mind. Seeing it for the first time, I was a little letdown because I wasn't prepared for what I was about to witness. But having a day or two to really let it soak in, I think this is a fantastic little slasher. I highly recommend this dark, twisted and creepy film. While some characters come off as annoying, this is a movie that deserves to be seen.