ALICE, SWEET ALICE

(1976 - also known as Communion and Holy Terror)
With Linda Miller, Paula Sheppard, Mildred Clinton, Tom Signorelli, Brooke Shields, Lillian Roth
Directed by Alfred Sole
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     The seventies was a time when you could make a pretty nifty horror film using just a knife, a mask, some creepy music and imagination.  So why is ALICE, SWEET ALICE, such an unknown little thriller?  It was released into theaters in 1976 under the title COMMUNION, again in 1978 as ALICE, SWEET ALICE and once more in 1981, to capitalize on Brooke Shield's sudden stardom, as HOLY TERROR.  Hardcore horror and slasher fans know about this one, but otherwise it seems to have gotten lost in the cracks of time.

    Strange, since it's such a fun, weird little movie.  Set in New Jersey in the 1960s, ALICE, SWEET ALICE is about a young girl (Alice)suspected of murdering her prettier sister on the day of said sister's First Holy Communion. As time goes on, more bodies begin to pile up, yet they can't seem to pin anything on Alice.  Director Alfred Sole shows great style throughout the film, making up with visuals and editing what the film might lack in budget and star power, and there are weird touches everywhere.  Especially memorable is the obese landlord (Alphonso DeNoble), one of the most disgusting characters in the history of horror movies - not only does he attempt to rape young Alice, but he lies around his filthy apartment in dirty shorts that have an obvious urine stain on the front!  Eeeew!

    Catholics, beware - this film is very harsh on the Catholic Church, most of the problems (and murders) of the film's various character being blamed on sexual repression caused by Catholic upbringing.  Still, there is no denying that Christian imagery has always been good for the horror genre - ALICE, SWEET ALICE follows in the tradition of 1973's mega-hit THE EXORCIST, but goes much further in its criticism of the church through its story line.

    Although the film is notable as Brook Shields's film debut (and she's very good), it is young Paula Sheppard, as Alice, who carries the day.  She maintains an air of psychotic creepiness as the would-be murderer, and her performance is enhanced by Sole's frequent closeups of her often completely passive face.  Although she plays a girl just past communion age, she was actually 19 years old when she made this film.

    Movie historians will note the brief and late appearance of former Broadway and movie star Lillian Roth (perhaps most famous for her appearance in The Marx Brothers film ANIMAL CRACKERS and for her harrowing autiobiography I'll Cry Tomorrow)  returning to the screen after an absence of more than two decades.  She plays a pathologist examining one of the bodies.  Unfortunately, there's no time allowed for her to sing  "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" or "Ain't She Sweet": 3½ - JB

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