While Black Christmas gets all the recognition for pre-dating and perhaps inspiring the original Halloween, the 1976 Hitchcockian horror film Alice Sweet Alice missed the boat on getting the same notoriety. While the plot is a little more complex than “killer stalks a bunch of girls,” it’s got an unforgettable knife-wielding psycho in one of those creepy translucent masks and a yellow raincoat.
Unlike Halloween, which never blatantly says “you have sex, you die,” Alice Sweet Alice gives us a heavy dose of religious judgment and morality. It makes for a disturbing, slow-burning thriller with some really eerie kills sprinkled throughout.
So Alice, her mother, and her younger sister (played by Brooke Shields), come to stay with this priest (scandalous!). Alice is one of those creepy-assed horror movie kids, pulling classic Bad Seed/Good Son moves, like luring her younger sister into an abandoned building, jumping out at her wearing a translucent mask and yellow raincoat, and then locking her in a room and threatening to leave her there.
Naturally, when a killer in the same getup kills little Brooke Shields in a really screwed up scene in the church during Communion, the audience (and many of the characters in the movie) suspect Alice. She doesn’t do much to convince us she didn’t do it. She comes across as pure evil. How can the killer not be Alice? She had the same costume as the killer, she was missing in action when her sister was killed, and she does evil shit like choke her landlord’s cat.
Wait until you see the “queer” landlord. He’s a slovenly, extremely overweight, bald, goateed dude who sits on the couch all day listening to show tunes and fanning himself (sounds gay, right?). He also apparently pisses himself rather than get up to go to the bathroom, because there is a heavy focus put on the huge wet stain at his crotch. He hates Alice and torments her (she torments him right back)…and eventually, he pretty much tries to molest her. He’s the ideal 1970s straight society’s paranoid vision of a “gay” man—the all-gender inclusive pedophile.
Then we have the man who gives 12-year-old Alice a lie detector test and speaks to the detective about how she seemed to want to have her tits touched when he was hooking her to the machine. Okay, so it’s not just the queer landlord fellow who is a perv. And does Alice have ESP? Because as soon as the lie detector dude says this in a private conversation, Alice smashes the lie detector machine in the other room while making an Orphan bitch face expression.
This is quite a grim and sleazy movie that makes you want to go to confession for watching it. There isn’t a high body count, because the movie plays out more like a mystery, but the kills are vicious and the pacing, atmosphere, and suspense are very Hitchcock. And then we get hit with the bizarre twists—really bizarre—and some seriously sick shit happens with rapid-fire death sequences in the last few minutes. And even when things seem to be cleared up, we’re still left wondering who really did it.
Alice Sweet Alice is required watching if you want to see a movie that perfectly fits into the timeline between Psycho and Halloween.