Saturday, June 2, 2012

Alice Sweet Alice

Now I know it's true
Naughty girls need love too

 - Samantha Fox

Either this one was in the public domain when I was a kid or it was cheap for the UHF channels because this movie frequently made the rounds in the afternoon or late night movie on the smaller stations. I don't think I've seen this since I was 12 years old and it's amazing how much of it stays with you. But that nostalgia came a touch of sadness when I realized how much better this movie could have been.

Pouty-faced Alice (Paula Sheppard) is jealous of her prettier sister Karen (Brooke Shields) and takes great delight in tormenting the poor girl, much to the chagrin of their single Mom. But those issues reach a boiling point during Karen's First Communion when a brutal murder sets into play a series of killings that rock the entire family. But who is the murderer behind the make-up mask and yellow raincoat? Is it Alice? Or someone else?

I had said this movie stays with you and it's true. I remembered a lot of scenes from my numerous viewings as a child. The creepy obese man who lives downstairs with 30 cats, the mask that looks something like Marilyn Monroe and is just opaque enough to cover someone's features, but translucent enough to show a little something underneath. And there's the yellow slicker, worn by the killer which everyone in the town seems to wear, even on the sunniest of days. There's some beautiful imagery in there, really reminiscent of Don't Look Now, a film which Alice's director Alfred Sole admits he took a lot from. That, combined with a nice haunting soundtrack, gives the film a really creepy feel. But by far, the scariest thing about this particular movie is the title character, Alice.

There's something almost perverse about watching Alice. Whether she's terrorizing her sister with a scary mask, or seductively licking icing off her finger while calling the 400lb landlord a "fat bastard", you almost feel like you're watching something you shouldn't. Even at such a young age, Alice is something akin to damaged goods, and you can just tell by looking at her, that she ain't never gonna be right.

The movie works well when it concentrates all of its attention on Alice, partly because the actress's performance is so compelling and partly because the inherent creepiness of the character. But halfway through the film, we learn the secret behind all of the murders, a secret that's not as interesting or horrifying as it should be. It's then that the focus turns to other characters who just aren't nearly as interesting as Alice. This is a bit of a shame because the movie had so much going for it in the main character that, had she remained the main focus, it could have been an instant classic. As it is though, it's a good trip to nostalgia land. Still scary, just not as scary as you remember.

Favorite Moments (may contain spoilers):
  • Karen chasing Alice into a old building to retrieve her doll and Alice frightening her with masks.
  • Alice attempting to take Karen's place at the Communion altar. 
  • Alice taking cake to Mr. Alphonso. In fact, any scene with Mr. Alphonso.
  • The very end of the movie where you see Alice's face and you know there's no good ending for her there.
Fun Facts Kids!
  • Brooke Shield's first acting role.
  • Paula Sheppard was actually 19 years old (19!) when she played  the prepubescent Alice.
  • The original title of the movie was Communion but it was changed to Alice Sweet Alice because Communion sounded "too religious."
  • Alphonso DeNoble (Mr. Alphonso) used to dress as a Priest and hang out at cemeteries saying prayers at graves for donations in addition to his other job as a bouncer at a gay bar.

Agree? Disagree? Or just have a random string of curse words you'd like to share? Comment!

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