Looking at the flicks that paved the way for Halloween and the heyday of slasher movies.
ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)
Proto-Slashers frequently contain more plot and depth of character than later straight up classic slashers. A case in point is Alfred Sole’s killer-on-the-loose feature “Alice, Sweet Alice” (a.k.a. “Communion”, a.k.a. “Holy Terror”). Set in 1960’s New Jersey, “Alice” creates a perfect sense of time and place as a young girl prepares for her first communion. Unfortunately (or fortunately, since this is a horror flick), she’s murdered on the big day and her slightly older sister, Alice (Paula Sheppard) becomes the main suspect. A series of murders and knife attacks follows, generating some truly great set pieces.
If it’s true that a thriller is only as good as its villain, then “Alice” fits somewhere close to the top of the killer class. This knife-wielder is genuinely creepy and unforgettable, dressed in a yellow raincoat (in an oft noted nod to Nicholas Roeg’s essential “Don’t Look Now”) and wearing a clear mask with painted features. Equally unforgettable is Alphonso DeNoble as Mr. Alphonso, a very large cat-obsessed potential pedophile!
“Alice” is one in a string of deeply Catholic horror movies that emerged in the 70’s (“The Exorcist”, “The Omen”, “The House of Mortal Sin”, etc.). Here, the rituals and icons of the religion are used to eerie and atmospheric effect to explore themes of guilt and sin. Key scenes are set in a church or a manse populated with priests, nuns and the devout. In fact, the atmosphere is primary to the flick’s effectiveness, as the characters deal with their guilt and suspicions about who’s doing the slashing. The cast adds to the overall oppressive atmosphere, giving strong and believable performance with the stellar Sheppard a standout. Also of note is a very young Brooke Shields, here in her much exploited acting debut.
Though “Alice” is sometimes deliberately paced, it’s punctuated by some terrific suspense scenes. It’s a very good movie, almost a great one, and necessary viewing for horror movie fans. And that mask is enough to give anyone nightmares.