Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

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“After a young girl is brutally murdered during her first communion, her strange and withdrawn older sister becomes the main suspect.” — IMDb

I’d like to think that, as someone who attended Catholic school for my entire adolescence, I appreciated the intensity of religion and the need to “punish the sinners” in this movie more than others may have. You’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of scenes that aren’t filled with some kind of symbol — a crucifix here, a soulful portrait of Jesus there. Not to mention, of course, the entire moral of the story — Mrs. Tredoni’s quote, “he waited until then to teach me that children pay for the sins of their parents”, comes to mind. But really, exaggerated portrayals of Catholicism only make this movie more brilliant.

Karen (Brooke Shields in her film debut) is doted on by her single mother, but when she is brutally murdered during her first communion, her older sister, the more withdrawn and rebellious Alice (played by an incredible Paula E. Sheppard), is the prime suspect. No one wants to believe that a 12-year-old girl could be capable of such a brutal act, and all the while the real killer is still close at hand.

Sheppard (who was actually 19 at the time) is so ridiculously good at pulling off the many emotions of Alice — the frustration, the isolation, the desperation — and yet so good at being straight up evil, particularly in her interactions with the truly creepy no-eyebrowed landlord (played by Alphonso DeNoble who, if you couldn’t guess, was not a professional actor).

It was fun to watch a slasher flick where the killer really isn’t experienced or particularly good at what they’re doing, just kind of fumbling around and yet still scarily determined to carry out their acts. The scene where the killer has the girls’ father, Dom (played by Niles McMaster), in the abandoned building is just… disturbing.

On top of everything else, there are scenes in this movie that are just works of art. When Catherine (played by the stunning Linda Miller) is talking with Father Tom (played by Rudolph Willrich) on the way to the funeral with rain running down the window… gorgeous.

And the ending has to be one of my favorites of all time. You feel Alice’s frustration crescendo as she is, yet again, denied communion… and then all hell breaks loose (pun very much intended). Shocking, brilliant, awesome.

Rating: 7/10 | Director: Alfred Sole | Writers: Rosemary Ritvo & Alfred Sole | Music: Stephen Lawrence | Starring: Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Paula E. Sheppard, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowry, Rudolph Willrich, Brooke Shields

 

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