Horror Biz: The Dismal Influence of ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’
There are few things in the world that I derive more enjoyment from than horror cinema. Playing music is ... okay. Writing fun little quips here and there and interviewing my heroes is ... fine, I guess. At the end of the day, I’d much rather be in a dark room with some gross-ass concoction of heavily buttered popcorn and peanut M&M’s (try it, you’ll thank me) and some wild gore flick than doing anything else in the whole goddamn world. Horror is sustenance. Horror is life. Horror is everything.
Halloween is right around the corner. In honor of the greatest holiday that ever was and ever will be, I’ve asked some of my favorite musicians, label heads and music video directors to tell us a bit about some of their favorite genre films. These individuals possess a keen understanding and a deep love of the medium. I hope that you enjoy their insights as much as I have. Look for a new piece every day this week.
First up in Horror Biz, we have Mark McCoy. He's the proprietor and creative force behind Youth Attack! Records, plus the man at the helm of countless notable hardcore and black metal projects (Charles Bronson, Failures, Ancestors, Devouring Ghost and Absolute Power, just to name a very select few). McCoy is responsible for helping to shape the aesthetic of a significant portion of the punk landscape. His work is largely influenced by horror cinema.
ALICE, SWEET ALICE (dir. Alfred Sole, 1976)
With its brilliant ambiguity, sado-sexual undertones and fluid camerawork, American giallo Alice, Sweet Alice portrays social institutions like family, church and law enforcement as corroding and ineffective.
The horror of everyday life begins to unfurl when 12-year-old Alice (cult legend Paula E. Sheppard) is placed under suspicion for murdering her favored younger sister, Karen (angel-faced Brooke Shields) on the day of her First Communion. The police are slow to react, the church does nothing and, meanwhile, a grotesque pedophile landlord downstairs taunts Alice and tries to molest her.
There is no fun to be had in this film — its characters are selfish and isolated, and their inability to communicate with one another generates scenes of enormous tension. When the outbursts of violence erupt, their sudden intensity and chaotic clamor achieves a distinct, visceral quality. Set in dismal Paterson, New Jersey — where it’s always raining — the film’s lifeless color palette is offset by the killer’s bright yellow raincoat and rosy, smiling mask. Director / co-writer Alfred Sole creates a grim reality, and, in typical ’70s fashion, the shocking downbeat ending offers no hope and confirms a common fear: that nothing will be OK.