For those unfamiliar, Alice, Sweet Alice is the story of a young girl named Alice (Paula Sheppard) who everyone thinks killed her little sister, Karen (a very young Brooke Shields), at her first communion because she was jealous of her getting more attention than her. As the story unfolds and becomes even more twisted and bizarre than weâ€™d initially expected, the audience is constantly being thrown for a loop which brings me to my 1st favorite thing about the filmâ€¦
The Unpredictability – Ask a newbie to watch the first 15 minutes of Alice, Sweet Alice and then ask them to predict how the movie is going to end. Theyâ€™re not going to get it right. Like many films from the 70â€™s, thereâ€™s a distinct aura of â€œanything goesâ€ throughout Alice, Sweet Alice. Any film that has to guts to make its first victim a child isnâ€™t playing around and itâ€™s not interested in being nice. It wants to disturb you and rattle you to your core. Youâ€™re never sure whoâ€™s going to live and whoâ€™s going to die and when the killer is going to leap out. The best horror movies make you feel like youâ€™re in the hands of a filmmaker whoâ€™s a little bit dangerous and this one definitely does that.
The colorful cast – Alice, Sweet Alice is stuffed with unique and odd character actors who all seem like they might feel more at home than on stage which gives the whole film a vibe it wouldnâ€™t have if every performance was perfectly modulated and subdued. It appears as if everyone in the film is 4 seconds away from having a hair-pulling, face-scratching nervous breakdown and it puts you further on edge. Where else would you see a character like the wicked Aunt Annie who hates her niece to a disturbing degree or the odious morbidly obese pedophile landlord Mr. Alfonso who lives in squalor with his cats and his sweat and food-stained tank top and pants that look like he just urinated in them?
The cinematography – Alice, Sweet Alice drips with mood in every shot and, while its look owes a great deal to the Italian horror films of the 60â€™s and 70â€™s and Donâ€™t Look Now, it still doesnâ€™t emulate them exactly. Alice, Sweet Alice doesnâ€™t really look like any other movie and no other movie looks like Alice, Sweet Alice either. It makes great use of the Patterson, New Jersey locations and milks all the production value out of every set up it can. Thatâ€™s just smart low budget filmmaking.
The music score – Composer Stephen Lawrence created one of the most haunting scores in all of horror history thatâ€™s a far cry from his child-friendly favorites such as â€œFree To Be You And Me.â€ Spooky female voices sing and wail throughout as creepy pianos tinkle and itâ€™s another part of the film that knows how to put the viewer on edge. He even said the score was supposed to act as a black cloud that had descended on the entire town and you can hear and feel that throughout.
The ambiguous ending – What does the ending of Alice, Sweet Alice mean? Even though itâ€™s a movie thatâ€™s over 40 years old, I still donâ€™t want to spoil it, but letâ€™s just say that things arenâ€™t tied up as neatly as some might have liked. What does the future have in store for Alice after everything sheâ€™s been through? There are many theories and thatâ€™s what makes it fascinating, because everyone will have a different interpretation.
Alice, Sweet Alice was never a movie that was hard to find considering there were seemingly dozens of releases from lousy budget VHS companies. It was, however, very hard to find with a cleaned up, decent looking print. Arrow Video just recently gave the film the royal treatment it deserves on Blu-Ray and seeing it looking like a million bucks is something I never thought Iâ€™d see in my lifetime. If youâ€™ve never seen it, pick up that release and, even if you have seen it, this release will make you think youâ€™re seeing it for the first time.
Note: Chris Moore’s excellent film TRIGGERED is free to view on Tubi HERE!
Hey the comments are working again! Iâ€™ll take any good news I can get…
Chris, thanks for this beautiful tribute to a truly fascinating horror film. I find something new each time I view it and itâ€™s so genuinely creepy.
I agree the ARROW blu-ray looks amazing! I canâ€™t take screenshots of blu rays though so these images come from the old Henâ€™s Tooth DVD (which is pretty decent but nothing like the ARROW blu ray which I highly recommend too!).
Thanks for joining in and thanks for all of your wonderfully entertaining movies!