‘Alice needs psychological help...’
My constant search for new horror films has led me to some pretty odd places, but perhaps none quite so eccentric as Alice, Sweet Alice, rookie director Alfred Sole’s cult horror classic. By mixing elements of Nicholas Roeg’s arty cinematography, Hitchcock’s colour palette and Dario Argento’s ethereal unreality, Sole creates a film that is perhaps a little too dilettantish for it’s own good at times, but on the whole there is a lot here to enjoy…
Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) is a problem child. Overcome with jealousy of her beatific younger sister (Brooke Shields) and desperate for attention from her absent father, Alice resorts to playing ever more dangerous pranks. As the bodies pile up, it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps Alice isn’t the one to blame.
First off, it’s surprising how little known this film has become, having slipped into obscurity outside of idle chatter between horror aficionados, because some of the imagery here is genuinely shocking. A young girl is burned alive, a priest is killed in front of his congregation, this really is a gnarly film. And yet because of the arthouse aesthetic, none of this really feels exploitative or unearned. Sole, whose only previous film credit prior to this was an adult film entitled Deep Sleep, makes some striking stylistic choices whilst also boldly revealing the true identity of the killer halfway through the movie. The result is a film that is occasionally confusing and perhaps too ambiguous, particularly during the wild conclusion, but one that feels genuinely unique in a genre that so often struggles to feel inventive. The inexperienced cast do a solid if unspectacular job but it is the Catholic imagery that remains the real star of this picture.
Alice, Sweet Alice will not convert any horror film unbelievers, but those of us already ordained will love it. A daring and refreshing take on the slasher movie.