OOM #3 – Communion (1976)

Welcome again to your favorite space for Halloween related reading (I hope), today has been easier than the two days before that, because I have some time to write about the movie itself and because I also finished some hard work. I can only look forward to the next days to the new movies that I will watch for this series and also the Valdivia Film Festival that starts next Monday! I will be traveling, so I hope you appreciate the entries that will go up. Maybe some of them won’t be written reviews, but who knows, just look forward to it!

Today we jump from 1945 to 1976 courtesy of James Rolfe’s Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness, as today marks the first day that he talked about a movie that I haven’t seen before. He talks about this movie calling it, ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’, as it was more famously released under, making it an intriguing watch that I can’t wait for. You can see the video he made right here.

Me? I’ll just have to see it and let’s hope that I get a strong reaction out of this one!

First, what an amazingly creepy film. Second, this must be among the rarest of birds when it comes to American horror filmmaking, as it is an independent picture when other films like ‘Carrie’ (1976) and ‘The Omen’ (1976) were being made, and this doesn’t belong in any exploitation genre (maybe childrenxploitation is a thing? I don’t know), but it manages to come across not only as genuinely scary at a time where slashers weren’t the norm, but also when this standard of quality was unseen in the genre. Now, that doesn’t mean that the film is perfect in any way, quite far from it, but it does have a certain something, an aura of sorts that feels as if there was something beyond the frame, as if you moved the camera just a tad bit to the left or to the right you could see the true horror behind the whole production, behind the whole deceiving shots and representations of childhood. Behind every evil stare made by a child, there’s some kind of vengeance, as if something wanted to go through, but couldn’t.

Maybe there is some deep hidden meaning or message in this particular movie. I’m not an expert on the history of the world, and even less of the United States, so I don’t know how were the relations between kids, people and the church, an element that appears prominently in the movie. One must start to wonder, specially if one is way too lazy to investigate further: was it about the same time that the first dishonest relations between a priest and a kid was known? Or is that just a personal or generalized position that comes from a modern watching of a film featuring a loving priest and group of kids who respond to his love? Maybe our eyes are tainted and can’t see the true calling of religious people anymore and we just see the whole perversion behind it. So, I’m conflicted, it seems that there’s something else and I can’t put my finger on it at all. That frustrates me.

The story about two sisters, one of them about to receive First Communion, and the other one (Alice) who spends most of her time destroying and being jealous of her sister, being disruptive and even hurtful at times, it’s no wonder that we end up thinking that she is the guilty of the dead of her sister, specially when we are explained and shown with no doubt that the killer uses the same clothes and mask as the girl uses in an earlier scene. There is one or two elements that remain mysterious in the movie even by the end of it, specially regarding the notions and the whys of the situations and the murders who follow, and it is in that strangeness and at the same time bold approach that the movie wins and loses at the same time. Being so thorough in its construction of the murders, showing the whole nasty endeavor that is killing a child in bright colors and with such a clear identification of the killer, the movie risks two things: being obvious about the killer and at the same time make us doubt about the real identity of the killer.

While some may find that good, as the suspense is something great in this movie and how it plays the blame game between Alice and a list of possibilities that with time become more and more impossible, the film is just too bold on its assumptions for it to become something to even consider. Either be the answer, they’re both weak, both twists are maybe new at the time that the movie came out, but nowadays under our tired eyes it seems as if we’ve seen it before, even if we haven’t (you know, the double blame, double dare, double guilt or innocence). But what wins this movie is a nice deconstruction and shot sequence that uses for the killing, specially to the way that the special effects work, it’s stupendous how it uses the whole frame to set up not only the creepy figure with the yellow raincoat (element brought up from ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973) according to the director), but also the elements that will come into play, specially ropes and the kitchen knife, something new at the time that this time I can appreciate as a bold element.

Don’t get me wrong, I may have positioned myself in a negative way, but the movie is highly recommendable, it is something that has to be seen to be believed, and it is genuinely creepy, in some ways I think that if the director believed just a bit more in himself and his abilities, he could’ve easily been paired alongside Scorsese and Coppola as the famous/talented directors of the ’70s. But the history of Cinema is something that has already been written, and we can only appreciate the gems that leaves behind, those hidden and those polished alike.

8/10

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