*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- If You Survive This Night Nothing Will Scare You Again
Release Date- November 13th, 1976
Running Time- 107-Minutes
Screenplay- Rosemary Ritvo & Alfred Sole
Director- Alfred Sole
Starring- Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Rudolph Willrich, Brooke Shields
Released in 1976 Alice Sweet Alice was the feature film debut for cult filmmaker Alfred Sole (not counting the adult film he made prior to this). Alfred Sole had a brief career directing and would later go onto a career as a production designer working on such films as Night of the Running Man and Wishmaster II and such TV shows as Veronica Mars and Castle. Its unfortunate that Sole’s directing career didn’t last longer, but like many Indie filmmakers it isn’t always a good fit in Hollywood with George Romero being the perfect example. A good portion of what many people see as his best work was outside of Hollywood and from a creative aspect he had more freedom and when he returned to Hollywood with Land of the Dead he quickly went back to the Indie scene. Too bad Alfred Sole didn’t take the same approach; there is a reason why Alice Sweet Alice is a cult favorite and while being the debut of Brooke Shields perhaps helps a little bit I’d assume most fans of the film probably don’t really care about that. With so many films long forgotten Alice Sweet Alice has stood the test of time. If anything had this film been made in Italy it would totally be considered a Giallo. Now with that said don’t expect a film like that of Dario Argento or Sergio Martino as the execution here is slightly different, but Alice Sweet Alice is very much an American Giallo and many though lump this in with the slasher film and sure there are elements, but its quite different. Though I do wonder had this film been made after Carpenter’s Halloween or even Friday the 13th would Alice Sweet Alice turned out differently?
On the day of her first communion Karen Spages (Shields) is murdered inside the church; when Alice (Sheppard) appears, Karen’s veil is found in her pocket and suspicion quickly falls on her and soon family drama comes to the surface and other family members are soon targeted.
The screenplay by Rosemary Ritvo & Alfred Sole is well written with a strong plot and strong characters. What I love about 70s horror and the same thing can be said about 30s horror is these films are as much a drama as they are horror films. I really miss that aspect in the horror genre and as much as I love the 80s it did start to become more about sex and violence not that is a bad thing, but it did become a gimmick to cover up subpar writing and directing. Alice Sweet Alice is much more than a horror film as its also an excellent drama. Karen can pretty much do no wrong and is sort of the golden child while her older sister Alice is ignored and no matter what she does a big fuss is made out of it. The problem that can sometimes be found with this mixture is one takes away from the other, but in the case of Alice Sweet Alice, Ritvo & Sole did an excellent job at balancing drama and horror. Scripts like this are a truly a thing of the past.
Director Alfred Sole delivers a well made an eerie film that is very worthy of its cult status. Pacing for the most part is strong, but at 107-minutes the film is slightly overlong and could have benefited from some editing. Suspense and tension are strong. The film is a little rough around the edges, but that isn’t a knock on the film since it enhances the film. Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre are prime examples of films rough around the edges and that just adds to the power of the films. Personally I don’t think Alice Sweet Alice is as good as those two films (again not a knock on this film at all), but I personally felt the fact while well-made it isn’t too polished and it adds a nice gritty feel to the film.
Overall Alice Sweet Alice is an excellent film and while not perfect and despite its cult status it deserves more of a following. As stated this is very much an American Giallo and if you’re into those films Alice Sweet Alice should fit the bill.
Alice Sweet Alice also goes under the title Communion and Holy Terror. Also released in 1976 was Pete Walker’s The Confessional (House of Mortal Sin) and while the films are different they both deal with the Catholic Church and would make an ideal double feature.