Alice, Sweet Alice AKA Communion AKA Holy Terror (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (21st April 2018).
The Film

When ten-year-old Karen (Brooke Shields – in her first screen appearance) is killed in church on the occasion of her first communion, her seemingly innocent older sister Alice (Paula Sheppard) becomes the prime suspect. Matters become complicated as more of Alice’s family members are attacked, along with residents of her apartment building. Can a twelve-year-old girl be capable of such mayhem, or is someone else with a vicious plan destroying her family?

Video

I had seen some of this film when the BBC screened it on Saturday 19.7.1986 at 22:40 (thank you BBC Genome!) and due to the print being very grungy didn’t stick with it; I was at the height of my early Hammer Horror appreciation phase. However, I was wrong to do so because it’s an extremely well written, acted and directed film; a remarkably assured directorial debut for Alfred Sole who would sadly only make one other film as director: the reviled Pandemonium (1982).

It’s creepy and atmospheric and I highly recommended it. My only caveat is that it does go on too long and that in the latter stages there’s one moment that really has no followup and it ought to. Apart from that, this is a top notch horror-mystery with religious overtones.

This restoration is taken from new 2K scan of the original 35mm positive elements funded by 88 Films so we can’t expect as pristine a restoration as if it’d been taken from the OCN.

Overall the colour palette is subdued which may well be by design considering the rather seedy New Jersey settings but I suspect that some of that will be down to the print source. At times I felt that it did have a slightly pinkish tinge to the flesh tones which also would not be unexpected and is most likely due to colour fading; at others it seemed as if graded more coldly emphasising blues and greys.

Black levels seemed pretty true and although there was the odd moment of crush it was most likely due to conditions during filming. Contrast is reasonable but seems somewhat boosted which can affect detail in backgrounds with mild blooming.

Grain is ever present and fairly thick and the encoding job handles it well. I could detect no signs of digital manipulation and print damage was minimal, nothing too distracting and nothing as major as chemical damage or tramline scratches.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 106:52

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH

The soundtrack is without any issues that I could detect and is a fairly flat experience but - again - this was a low budget production with limited resources and this is to expected. Dialogue is very clear and the score is well represented with no distortion.

English HoH subtitles are always welcome.

Extras

Audio commentary by Alfred Sole, Edward Salier and moderator William Lustig

Vintage commentary ported over from the old Anchor Bay (USA) special edition DVD from 1999. Director Sole, editor Salier and (then) head honcho of Anchor Bay Lustig are old pals so we get a very informative and chatty track. Lustig - who was New York based in ‘76 - worked on this New Jersey-lensed regional production as a SPFX assistant for a short time. It’s here that Sole states definitively that he prefers the “Communion” title over the producer’s choice (“Alice, Sweet Alice”) or the title on the print which is for the cut down reissue in ‘81: “Holy Terror”. I was interested to find out that the film was influenced by Don’t Look Now (1973) and Giallos.

Trailer (1:42)
"Communion / Tintorera" TV Spot (:14)


Vintage trailer showing signs of age and an hilarious TV spot in which Sole’s classic is paired with René Cardona Jr.’s Tintorera (1977) which I have seen in it’s massively overlong director’s cut ... a bum numbing 126 minutes! The trailer is from a print source but the TV spot seems to be from VHS.

Poster & Video Artwork (4:55)

Lovely set of HD scans of promotional material and stills.

Restoration Demo (5:20)

Fascinating short showing what 88 Films had to work with and how they managed a near miracle in getting this element up to speed. Sadly, the OCN was not available and had they access to that the results would’ve notable improved.

Reversible Sleeve

Key art with Slasher Classics framing using the “Alice, Sweet Alice” title and the reverse has the “Holy Terror”artwork and title.

Card sleeve when purchased directly from 88 Films’ website

Reproduces the key art under the title “Alice, Sweet Alice”.

Overall

This is fabulous mid-late ‘70s shocker more akin to an Italian giallo than a conventional Halloween-style slasher flick. A real gem that should be better known outside of horror and film buff circles. Hopefully the new 88 Films’ Blu-ray will be the path to better recognition; incidentally, it is only available via their website till June when it will become widely available.

The disc as fine picture and sound from an imperfect positive print but 88 Films have done a great job bringing this minor classic to a modern audience. Extras are limited but choice.

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: B- Extras: C Overall: B

 


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