Proto-Slashers #11 – Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

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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.

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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!

 

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“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.

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About the Author

A Writer/Project Manager at Graphcom Group (an advertising agency) by day, and a freelancer at night, I’ve written, mainly about movies, for Retro Slashers.net, The Buzz, Rue Morgue, and Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment magazine Studio CX. I’m a grad of Humber College’s (Toronto) Film & TV Production program, and I’ve directed and co-written short films, one of which (Florid) won the Viewer’s Choice Award at the 2004 Reel Island Film Festival. I’ve been heard as a movie reviewer and pop culture commentator on CBC Radio, and I’ve edited and contributed scripts and ideas to television productions including My Messy Bedroom and Thrill on the Hill (CBC-TV’s Canada Day Celebration). My movie review cartoon strip And Yet I Blame Hollywood was adapted and animated as 26 two-minute television interstitials for CBC-TV’s late night program ZeD, and I wrote every single stinkin’ last episode.

7 Responses to “ Proto-Slashers #11 – Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) ”

  1. Great review. This is an awesomely creepy little movie, and very underrated (at least in the world of non-genre fans), which is a shame because it really hits the mark.

    I remember buying this movie on a cheap vhs and showing it to a friend of mine who was just getting into horror. Watching her watch the movie through the cracks of her fingers was no less than awesome.

  2. Yes, Amanda is completly right(as always), this is definitely a milestone in the genre.

  3. I agree. This movie is amazing. A great little slasher that deserved a lot more credit.

  4. Definitely a classic 70′s horror movie, and perhaps my personal favourite with a Catholic theme.

  5. My Favorite Horror / Slasher Of The 70′s Era Classic

  6. I found the Anchor Bay DVD for $3 used in 2008, I still haven’t listened to the commentary

  7. I love this and own it! True, many older horror films had more depth and character. Something largely missing from todays horror flicks although movies like The Descent are a refreshing reminder that someone still knows what they are doing.

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