Wow! 88 Films deliver a real blast from the past. As my box of screeners arrived I read through the titles ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ was recognisable, and true enough, there on my shelf was some old dusty copy of the movie under the title ‘Communion’.
Created in the mid-70s it’s amazing that this movie is often over looked as an influence to the slasher genre, but it’s undeniable that it must have been, from the knife, to the featureless mask worn by the killer; incidentally both these elements, and the murder mystery plot are actually more comparable with Italian Giallo, than traditional American slasher.
The plot tells the tale of one unfortunate young Catholic girl who becomes the chief suspect in a multitude of murders, beginning with the murder of her friend on her first holy communion. Whilst Alice doesn’t help herself with an obnoxious attitude, bullying tendencies and an aptitude for manipulating people and situations, her biological father and the police struggle to believe she really did it - even when evidence points that way.
As the plot unravels different characters are pulled into the fray, and whilst there is some quite striking violent set pieces this movie is a much more dialogue driven affair than future slasher movies would be associated with. Perhaps most likened with ‘Black Christmas’ ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ relies on its grim story to create a creepy atmosphere, with some decent camera work and an eerie masked killer helping with the mystery. The acting is pretty good for the most part, and an eclectic mix of characters helps to keep the story moving with pace. Admittedly most of the women seem to compete for ‘most anguished screamer’ award, but the blokes give interesting perspectives on the case being investigated.
Perhaps one criticism of the movie would be that rather than dropping subtle clues as to motive and killer ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ simply un-masks the killer, and only then, though fairly obvious exposition are the motives revealed. That said, it remains pretty freaky even when you do know who the killer is!
As I have said, the violence is fairly tame, however you will be pleased to see 88 Films have released a 100 odd minute uncut version which means that the knife wielding murders are shown in their full blooded gory. The body count is modest, but as with the likened Giallo movies some of the best scenes are more about the chase than the kill.
Overall ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ is going to be an enjoyable revisit for most horror fans. Undoubtedly most people will not be stating this as a flawless example, as perhaps its plot needed a little more refining to capitalise on its who-done-it style and it does require a little padding to reach its full US required 100 minute run time, but as I have conveyed, it’s got some great scenes which are up there with the most iconic movies on offer.