Directed by Alfred Sole [Other horror films: Pandemonium (1982)]
Certainly a proto-slasher classic, at times almost feeling like an American giallo, Communion (more commonly known as Alice, Sweet Alice) is definitely a worthwhile and interesting film, and worth the watch if you’ve not yet seen it.
Like many 70’s films, there is a chance some of the material could come across as dry, but personally, I think the story here was interesting enough to combat some of those inclinations. It also helps that the mystery of the killer is an engaging one, and though we happen to find out who the killer is with around thirty minutes left to go, the mystery still holds up.
Another aspect that I can’t help but give kudos to is the gritty setting. This isn’t a high-budget film, and it really shines due to it. The broken down city, what with empty factories and other industrial constructs, really gives the movie additional feeling. Assisting with the gloom is the heavy rainfall, and I think it does wonders to the atmosphere of the film.
With plenty of competent and compelling performances all around, it’s hard to point to any one actor or actress as the best here. Certainly Linda Miller and Rudolph Willrich work well together, and Willrich’s scenes with Niles McMaster (of The Incredible Torture Show) positively stand out. Mildred Clinton gives a great performance of a character with quite a lot of emotional punch, and you can’t forget Alphonso DeNoble, who’s atypical physical appearance and sleazy behavior really allows him to stand out.
Oh, and of course, playing Alice, there’s Paula E. Sheppard, who, amazingly, despite playing a 12-year old girl, celebrated her 19th birthday during the shooting of the film. She certainly doesn’t look it, and I think she gives off a great performance, especially early on when there’s still some mystery surrounding the mysterious deaths of those around her.
Of course, what would a review of Communion be without talking about the deeply religious nature of the film? I was raised Roman Catholic, and though much of that is far behind me, I did enjoy seeing much of this carnage play out around parishioners of the Catholic church. Some see this film partially as an attack of the church, but that needn’t be the case. Some of the mayhem occurred due to religious reasons, to be sure, but there are good and bad people throughout the film with Catholic leanings, so I think some calling this an indictment upon the church may be over-reacting.
Like I relayed in my review of Children of the Corn, among other films, religious mania, leading to violence, is especially horrifying because, at least in the USA, it’s very much a possibility. In Children of the Corn, Isaac and his peeps thought age inevitably led to moral corruption, and so logically made the move to kill them before reaching that age. Here, the killer has a perfectly logical reason, at least in regards to their beliefs, for the actions they take, and when such atrocities can be defended due to religious beliefs, and there’s no chance to possibly break through to them, that’s a good show of the real world coming into the film.
Communion, or Alice, Sweet Alice, isn’t a perfect film, but I do think it’s an exceptionally strong one, and really fits in with the gritty and serious nature of 70’s horror. In fact, had this been made even five years later, I think it would have been a significantly different film, so I’m happy that this was made when it was, as it encapsulates much of what I love about that time period. The kills aren’t the focus, but they’re solid when they pop up, and I love the mystery here. Definitely a classic that’s worth a watch.
This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Alice, Sweet Alice (or Communion, if you’re partial to original titles, brah).