It took me three days to review a creepy movie that will leave me double-checking the locks on my windows and doors tonight.
I present “Alice, Sweet Alice”, the underrated, American “in-spirit only” cousin of such Italian scream fests like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria”, released in 1976 and directed by Alfred Sole (“Pandemonium”). I’m not the first to call this film underrated either. Unlike films, like Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, both films created in the 1970s, that have been played to “death” (Don’t excuse the pun!) on t.v. sets, either around Halloween or just because, “Alice, Sweet Alice” simply is not known as much to the general viewing public, unless the viewers are genuine horror fans. Like “Black Christmas” (which I will review later), it hasn’t received it’s due. Now mind you, I am a big horror fan, and even I overlooked this film for thirty years (Yes, I started watching horror sooner than most kids and, with care and caution, I’ve exposed my own children to the greatness of this genre.). I would see promos for televised late-night showings on my local t.v. stations as a kid, or I’d see critics put it on their “best of” lists. Yet, I still never showed interest in watching the actual film. It wasn’t Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhies, or Michael Myers (“the Big Three” of “slasher” films).
Ignoring this film for so long was a big mistake!
Creepy! Creepy! Creepy! I’m being modest in this description. Where do I start? A troubled preteen becomes the prime suspect of her younger sister’s murder during the latter’s First Communion. We see a young, single mother, Catherine Spages (Linda Miller, daughter of Jackie Gleason, and wife of Jason Miller, Father Karras, of “The Exorcist”), along with her two daughters, 9 year-old Karen and 12 year-old Alice, played respectively by newly introduced Brooke Shields and Paula Sheppard. They are preparing for Karen’s First Communion. Through early scenes of sibling rivalry and bullying on the part of Alice, we deduce that Karen is the clear favorite of the two. I wonder if the reasoning for Karen’s favoritism is that she was born apparently in wedlock and Alice wasn’t. Oh, those crazy Catholics! (Disclaimer: I’m a former member of the Church. No judgment! Just pure snark.)
Without giving too much away (That’s not my thing!), Karen ends up dead and Alice is suspected of the brutal murder. Through a series of “mishaps” and deaths involving people close to Alice and Catherine, the film gets crazier and creepier with each frame. Did Alice do this? How crazy is she? At what lengths will Catherine go to protect her surviving daughter? Some of the questions are answered and some are left ambiguous, like the ending, which adds to the creep factor.
Generally, I love and recommend this film, based on my initial viewing. It’s a nail biter, with many twists, turns, and red herrings, that trying to predict how the film would end was impossible as I was shocked gratefully by a big twist that came out of nowhere (unless, I wasn’t observant truly). Normally, a major pet peeve of mine is the use of ambiguous endings. No, I don’t want a spoon-feeding of an ending; but, sometimes, I need closure after much character and plot investment. Cut me some slack! I want to know how it ends. Maybe, this ending was a sequel hook. Whatever. I don’t know. I was in diapers when this film premiered.
However, the only thing that threw me off throughout the movie was that Paula Sheppard, Alice’s actress, was nineteen and cast as a twelve year-old. Well, guess what? She sounds thirty. Either Alice smokes menthol cigarettes and enjoys three shots of Scotch each day after detention and we didn’t know, or perhaps, a younger actress that sounds like a preteen, should’ve been cast. Nonetheless, voice maturity aside, she did a good job of portraying a rather sinister girl. While creepy boys get more play in horror films, it’s good to see a malevolent girl. We can’t all be sugar and spice, right?
Thus, I highly recommend this film. It scared me and left an unsettling feeling. Of course, I’ll watch it again. I will not ignore another late-night promo!
I rate this one: 9 out of 10
Fun Facts About “Alice, Sweet Alice”:
- Released and newly-titled two other times: “Communion” and “Holy Terror”
- While acclaimed by both critics and audiences, the movie performed poorly due to legal fiction and poor distribution