BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Alfred Sole
Starring: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Brooke Shields, Niles McMaster, Alphonso DeNoble
Alice, Sweet Alice (or Communion or Holy Terror) is a 1976 slasher film that pre-dates John Carpenter’s Halloween by two years, although it’s really a slasher in name only due to the fact that there is a masked killer with a knife and it doesn’t really carry many of the trademarks that Halloween would go on to establish. Alice, Sweet Alice leans more towards the giallo-style murder mystery due to its deliberate pacing and religious iconography that looms large over nearly every scene.
12-year-old Alice Spages (played by 19-year-old Paula Sheppard) and her younger sister Karen (Brooke Shields – The Blue Lagoon) live with their divorced Catholic mother, and young Alice is a little jealous of Karen as she seems to get most of the attention from their mother and other family members. After Karen’s dead body is found in the church during what was supposed to be her first communion Alice is the prime suspect and as the bodies start to pile all the evidence points towards the child, but could a 12-year-old girl really be responsible?
Well, you’ll just have to watch it to find out. Alice, Sweet Alice doesn’t take very long to establish the favouritism towards Karen and the jealousy felt towards her from Alice, but unfortunately it also doesn’t take long to establish the fact that there are really no likeable characters here and nobody to really latch onto as the plot starts to thicken, and that is the biggest drawback to the film.
However, pretty much everything else about Alice, Sweet Alice works, from the blood-soaked violence of the kills, the subtext about impending womanhood and sexual awakening and the religious imagery through to some reasonably solid performances, despite none of the characters being particularly endearing. Paula Sheppard pretty much nails the ‘creepy kid’ role that the film really hangs on and Alphonso DeNoble makes an appearance as the Spages’ grossly overweight paedophile landlord, who may not make for a savoury character but his appearances probably has the most entertainment value. The direction is also pretty good for this type of low-budget shocker, with director Alfred Sole managing to create a tense atmosphere for the most part, although some of the scenes in the first act are a little drawn out.
Overall, Alice, Sweet Alice is an unnerving little shocker that borrows a lot from the European giallos that came before it, as well as some of the secondary, more underlying themes of The Exorcist, and it works well enough in trying to emulate the shock value of those films. At 102 minutes it is a little long for this type of film and the washed-out look – due to age rather than a stylistic choice – does make the film look older than it is but for fans of giallo and ’70s horror Alice, Sweet Alice is worth checking out, especially as the DVD comes with the original Communion title sequence, audio commentary by director Alfred Sole and editor Edward Salier, a reversible sleeve including new and original artwork and a collector’s booklet, which makes it a decent edition to get your hands on.
Special Features: Audio commentary by director Alfred Sole and film editor Edward Salier, alternative Communion title sequence, stills gallery, trailer, booklet notes by Calum Waddell, reversible sleeve incorporating original artwork.
UK Release Date: 17th February 2014