In a Catholic church, a young communicant is strangled with a candle during the service. Everything accuses his little sister, Alice, known for her misconduct. The only notable film of its director’s career, ALICE, SWEET ALICE stands out as a visionary B-movie, ahead of its time.
Between Psychosis and Carrie at the Devil’s Ball, ALICE, SWEET ALICE takes root in a very particular era, where traditional shackles are still very present, despite socio-political advances. The cinema of the first half of the 1970s leaned precisely on these mutations and bear witness to the liberation of mores, as well as the alienation aroused by blind belief and the withdrawal towards old values. Thus, ALICE, SWEET ALICE locates its plot in the heart of an American Catholic community, where two little girls oppose each other. One depicted as the wise child and the other as the enfant terrible.
After being excommunicated from his religious community due to the explicit content of his first film (Deep Sleep), director Alfred Sole settle accounts with the Catholic Church. Die-hard, he places his story in the diocese of Patterson, New-Jersey, where he is from. And ALICE, SWEET ALICE to bathe in an omnipresent religious imagery, where figures such as that of the priest or the bigoted spinster are knowingly dented. Worse still, the first murder takes place in the house of God, under the gaze of the statues of the saints and that of Jesus Christ, our savior.
Damien, Carrie and Alice
Alfred Sole therefore seizes on two preponderant themes in horror cinema of the time: the Christian religion and the cursed child. Of The Exorcist in 1972 in the first part ofAmityville in 1979, these themes would greatly permeate the genre and ALICE, SWEET ALICE may even laugh at being one of its precursors. Because if Carrie at the Devil’s Ball of Brian de Palma and The curse of Richard Donner came out the same year, the filmAlfred Sole keep the scoop. Indeed, at the time of its release, it had already been in production for six long years – where the search for funding was almost daily.
Upstream, BlackChristmas of Bob Clark (1974) laid the foundations of slasher, as we understand it today. Namely a psychopath hiding in the shadows, disseminating one by one the members of a group of individuals. However, if ALICE, SWEET ALICE somewhat adopts this logic, it remains relatively traditional in its structure of whodunitwith a parapsychological resolution close to the Giallo Italian. If stabbing murders necessarily evoke the Psychosis ofHitchcockit does, however, foreshadow the wave of psychokiller movies gores which is about to break over the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. We also note in the credits a young William Lustigfuture director of maniacin charge of make-up and special effects.
Priesthood and betrayals
Otherwise, ALICE, SWEET ALICE is one of the first mediums to deal with the breakdown of the nuclear family in cinema. Indeed, the parents of the two sisters are divorced, and their mother brings them up alone, in a shabby apartment, in an unpopular neighborhood. In some aspects, the story also focuses on the feeling of persecution of the small family within its religious community. The bigoted aunt does not like Alice, because she was conceived out of wedlock. The priest’s maid, usually so gentle, despises the mother and her two daughters, because of the effective separation of the two parents. So many reverses addressed to the Catholic cult, which reach their climax with the figure of the priest, very interested, if not too much, by young adolescent girls or their pretty mothers.
See as well
Finally, the character of Alice is certainly not lacking in interest either. Among the more or less evil children of horror films of the 70s, she stands out for her lack of empathy. Also by his presumed antagonist posture. Indeed, far from positioning herself as a victim, Alice is portrayed as a temperamental and surly child. It nevertheless arouses compassion, to the point that one comes to hope that it is cleared of all suspicion. A fairly modern figure for her time, Alice is simply disreputable and visibly unstable. Is she a dangerous murderer for all that? The question remains open.
For the first time in high definition, ALICE SWEET ALICE released as a Blu-Ray and DVD combo at Rimini editions. The film is accompanied by a 20-page booklet designed by Marc Toullec, with a bonus presentation by Gilles Gressard, writer and film historian.