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Slasher Sundays: Alice, Sweet Alice (Aka. Communion) (1976)

Written by Film

Slashers are a dime a dozen, with most finding themselves in the mediocre territory or the outright terrible dumping pile, but Alice, Sweet Alice is a gem amongst the rubbish and, dare I say it, a superior flick to even Halloween.

From the blacked-out eyes of the eerie inhumane mask to the chilling score all the way through to the juxtaposition between religious harmony and serial killer frenzy, Alice, Sweet Alice is a terrifying jaunt riddled with suspense and scares. It delivers on the slasher code-of-conduct to a T and it does not disappoint.

It’s one of the longer slashers, sitting at an uneasy 2-hour runtime, but that lengthy endurance is warranted, with each scene as captivating as the last as Alfred Sole captures audiences in his snare as he unravels a mysterious string of murders that leave every character a flawed question mark with viewers begging for the answer.

The script is perhaps the biggest highlight, aside from the editing, as what appears on the surface to be an obvious situation, such as Alice killing her sister Karen in the first communion, is brought into murky waters as new information begins to reveal itself. This constant doubt helps to craft the near-perfect aura of unease as nobody is truly innocent, which contrasted with the setting of a Christian church makes for brilliant poetry.

Alice, Sweet Alice features an early performance from a young Brooke Shields who would later star in hit films such as The Blue Lagoon (1980) and US sitcom Suddenly Susan (1996). Image:IMDB

Performances tend to be the biggest killer in the slasher genre, whether it’s the laughable stoners in Shredder or the amateur first-timers in Psychotic!, but Alice, Sweet Alice breaks from the mold with a stellar cast that give it their all. Despite being 19-years-old at the time of shooting, Paula Sheppard is an unbelievably convincing 12-year-old, animating the creepy near-mute Alice and making it look easy whilst doing so.

However, many come to the genre not for its well-woven scripts or heightened performances, but rather for the kills and the violence. Alice, Sweet Alice, in that regard, is visceral and all the more terrifying for it. The camera refuses to shy away from the uncut horrors which, toppled with the sound design, results in some hard-to-watch kills that you can almost feel in your own gut.

It’s a more tangible horror and it’s from an era that pre-dates the copycat formulaic clones of the 1980s, pioneered by none other than the vastly overrated Friday the 13th. It’s aged better than most because of that and is still a worthwhile watch to this day. In fact, with the advent of the proto-slasher brought about by Scream and the return to form that has been unfolding in recent years, Alice, Sweet Alice has arguably aged like a fine wine.

Rating: 4/5

Last modified: 18th February 2020

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