Filmed in Paterson, NJ in 1976, the independent horror film Alice, Sweet Alice starring a young Brooke Shields inspired me this year. The creepy movie has a cult following amongst horror fans, but isn’t super well known otherwise. If you can get your hands on a copy, it’s definitely worth adding to your Halloween viewing agenda this season.
The film was a pioneer not because it was Brooke Shields first film, but mostly because of the killer’s creepy as hell mask and raincoat look. Jeff from Dinner with Max Jenke supports this claim: “Slasher icons like Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, and Leatherface are celebrated for their iconic looks, but to my mind, none of them can hold a candle to the creepy countenance of Alice’s diminutive killer.”
What I loved about Dave Stewart’s review at Bloody Terror was that he pointed out the New Jersey aspect of the film. “In fact, the atmosphere is key to the flick’s effectiveness. Shot in the ’70s and set in the ’60s, Alice Sweet Alice has a terrific feel for its working class New Jersey backdrop.”
Aside from offending devout Catholics, Alice Sweet Alice didn’t leave a huge impression upon it’s release. It’s impact has been felt more in the decades that followed. Captain Cadaver points out at his Happy Horror Blog that Alice was shot in the summer of ’75, way before slasher movies really took off with Halloween in ’78, and goes on to praise the film: “As many shocks as Psycho, as much religious commentary as The Exorcist, with as much atmosphere as The Haunting, there’s no reason why this well written, acted and directed genre masterpiece shouldn’t be listed as a classic right beside all of the aforementioned.”
One aspect of the film that I only found a few bloggers mention is the feeling of being short changed by the resolution. I was let down by the film, but that’s not to say it’s without merit. The majority of horror films feature a swerve, and I was expecting it, even from an early slasher like this one. But I felt unfulfilled. Andre from Horror Digest also had a minor gripe with it as well, and I completely agree with her statement that “…I still think Alice still stabbed the aunt.” You should watch it and decide for yourself! Andre sums it up by saying that the film “…was suspenseful, surprising, and really kept you on edge.”
Being let down by horror movies seemed to be a trend, at least for me as I was growing up. I’d go to the video store and pick horror movies based on whether the VHS cover scared me or not. That turned out not to be such a successful system. Horror Movie a Day brings up a good point about this: “The only thing that really bummed me out was that nothing in the film was as creepy as the film’s poster which used to scare me at the video store as a kid.”
Considering that Psycho is the grandfather of all slasher films, Alice Sweet Alice has got to be looked at as the original niece of the slashers. The issue for many viewers is that we’ve seen so many incarnations of essentially the slasher same film since the ’70s that Alice doesn’t feel as original as it actually is. Perhaps if I saw it back in ’76 it might have been more disturbing. It’s still awesome to see Paterson, NJ in the mid ’70s, especially the scene at Great Falls waterfall. I’ll end with another quote from Jeff at Dinner with Max Jenke – in fact, the same quote he ended his review with – “If you want to know what scary is all about, go ask Alice.” I’ll let you determine that yourself, or you can wait for the remake!