16th Feb2014

‘Alice Sweet Alice’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowry, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Hardstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Gary Allen, Brooke Shields | Written by Alfred Sole, Rosemary Ritvo | Directed by Alfred Sole

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88 Films expand their DVD repertoire with their first non-Full Moon flick Alice Sweet Alice (aka Communion), the 1970s “killer kid” proto-slasher from director Alfred Sole – who would later go on to spoof the genre a mere three years later with Pandemonium.

When ten-year-old Karen (Brooke Shields, in her first screen appearance) is killed in church on the occasion of her first communion, her seemingly innocent older sister Alice (Paula Sheppard) becomes the prime suspect. Matters become complicated as more of Alice s family members are attacked, along with residents of her apartment building. Can a twelve-year-old girl be capable of such mayhem, or is someone else with a vicious plan destroying her family?

Alice Sweet Alice is one of those horror films that has become more notorious for its cast than it’s plot. In this case it for a very early performance from Brooke Shields as a precocious tween whose death kicks of a swathe of murders – all connected to the church in which she was due to take communion (hence the films alternate title). It’s also one of the few pre-Halloween/Friday the 13th “slashers” I hadn’t, until now, seen.

Like many proto-slashers that came before the straight to video craze of the 80s, Alice Sweet Alice is not merely a generic “killer-on-a-rampage” flick, instead it features a plot that Hitchcock and Argento would be proud of, leaving you guessing even to the very last frame as to just who is the killer – even after the “killer” is eventually revealed! Its also tied heavily to faith, religion and religious imagery, something that was prevalent in 70s horror cinema; and it’s these little additions which give the film a greater depth than others that would follow.

It’s hard to pinpoint it, but there’s just something so sleazy about 70s cinema – maybe it was the low-budget nature of a lot of the independent movies released in that era or maybe it was an all-pervasive sleaze that was emanating from the likes of 42nd Street and the rise of hardcore films in cinemas across the US, whatever it was it certainly works for Alice Sweet Alice. From the cat-loving, eyebrow-less fat man who lives downstairs; or the creepy detective who swears young Alice wanted him to cop (pardon the pun) a feel as he strapped her into the lie detector. Or even Alice herself, who walks the fine line between bratty teen and cat-strangling psycho, the film is literally packed with completely unlikeable characters… Yet thanks to it’s sleazy “morals” you can’t help but keep watching.

88 Films’ new DVD is apparently the first anamorphic issue of the film (other releases have been letterbox releases mastered from the old Laserdisc) and for the first time in the UK, the it is also completely uncut. The disc also features an audio commentary with director Alfred Sole, editor Edward Salier, and make-up effects assistant Bill Lustig, the Communion alternate title sequence and a trailer for the movies early-80s reissue under the title of Holy Terror, as well as trailers for other 88 Films releases.

Sinister, sleazy and often disturbing, Alice Sweet Alice is released on DVD on Monday February 17th, courtesy of 88 Films.

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