ALICE, SWEET ALICE (1976)
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1976 slasher tells the story of sisters Karen (Brooke Shields) and Alice (Paula E. Sheppard) who share an intense rivalry instigated by the more aggressive and older Alice. During her first communion ceremony, Karen is brutally murdered by a small figure in a yellow raincoat and face mask. As Alice was not present at the time of the murder and everyone knows she had a dislike for her sister, fingers point the girl’s way. As other people are attacked and killed, the answer to the big questions become more and more urgent…is someone stalking this family for some unknown reason, or is Catholic schoolgirl Alice really a devil in disguise?
Cult classic is directed by Alfred Sole and co-written by he and Rosemary Ritvo and is set in Paterson, New Jersey. Sole’s style is atmospheric and despite some bad acting and clunky dialog, he manages to deliver some effective and disturbing sequences, especially with Karen’s gruesome murder right there in the church. The film is filled with religious and sexual overtones and that may even be part of our killer’s motivations. Sole surprisingly reveals the stalker about two thirds of the way through and the film actually becomes a bit creepier once we know who they are and why they are targeting the Spages family. While this flick is regarded as a classic, some of the before mentioned acting and dialog does hold it back a bit, as does a slower than average pace. The films of this era were more moderately paced than those that would come later in the 80s, but this seems like it could have benefited from something slightly brisker. The kills are brutal, though some of the sequences have attained a bit of a campy edge at this point, although young miss Sheppard is successfully creepy as Alice, keeping us wondering about her guilt or innocence. The film is very modestly budgeted and looks it, though it does make good use of the Paterson, New Jersey locations.
In terms of some of the acting, dialog and not aging as well as it could, Alice, Sweet Alice is not quite the classic it’s remembered as. It is still atmospheric and creepy at times and has some kills that are still effective and brutal. The pacing could have been brisker, though our killer’s reveal earlier than expected actually works and adds a more disturbing slant to things. Some of it may be viewed as campy at this point and the portrayal of an old-fashioned Catholic church centered neighborhood may seem dated, but this slasher film does pre-date Halloween by two years, though it finally saw release in same year as Carpenter’s masterpiece, 1978. Maybe not quite the classic it’s made out to be, but an odd and sometimes disturbing little movie.
3 knives (a little extra credit for taking place/being made in New Jersey).