Packed with heavy religious overtones, some impressive acting and a real nasty streak running throughout, Alice, Sweet Alice is pretty far removed from your regular American horror fare.

Sure, it may contain the ‘masked killer stalks unsuspecting victims’ motif so prevalent in the late 70s/early 80s, but Alfred Sole’s effort is so much more than that.

In fact, for a better idea of what to expect one should probably look to the work of Dario Argento or Mario Bava rather than the Hollywood hacks who turned out such forgettable tosh as Prom Night.

It does not take too long for Alice, Sweet Alice to nail its colours to the mast – after the early scenes that document the simmering sibling rivalry between young sisters Alice (Paula Sheppard) and Karen Spages (a fresh-faced, debut-making Brooke Shields), Karen is murdered at the occasion of her first communion.

Not only that, but this is an on-screen (and pretty harsh) death scene which immediately sets the nihilistic tone for the rest of the film.

Although the killer is masked and wearing a yellow raincoat, all the evidence points at Alice, who, it must be said, comes across as a bit of a brat in the opening exchanges.

But, despite the youngster being packed off by the police the bodies continue to pile up as this whodunnit-of-sorts continues to take shape.

There are numerous strings to its impressive bow, not least the script and its subsequent playing out.

None of the characters are flawless, although some still have a likeable edge, and that sense of reality helps the mood tremendously.

The acting is strong across the board, with Sheppard, along with Linda Miller (who plays single mum Catherine) and Rudolph Willrich (Father Tom) notable standouts.

But its biggest strength is probably the fact that it is straight-up shocking, even by this day-and-age’s standards.

Whether it is the catch-you-off-guard outbursts of violence (very well done) or the sleazy antics of landlord Mr Alphonso (memorably played by Alphonso DeNoble), there is a real air of cruelty that helps the film tremendously.

An honourable mention should also go to Stephen Lawrence’s excellent score – Psycho-influenced it may be, but fantastically mood-setting nonetheless.

Even being the horror buff that I am, Alice, Sweet Alice was always one of those films I had read about but never got round to seeing.

But I urge my fellow genre-lovers to track this down and check it out – you will not be disappointed.

AKA: Communion or Holy Terror

 

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.