FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 17, 2007

nunzapoppin'

I didn't watch the 1975 lesbo-possesso-vampiro flick Alucarda with the intent of reviewing it. I know, I know...this might be hard for you to hear, but...sometimes I watch things and I don't tell you about it. I'm not trying to keep secrets or anything, honest. It's simply nice sometimes to watch movies without having to apply my keen critical insight, not to have to come up with jokes on the fly or think up nicknames for people in the movie or find a way to place a real turd of a flick within the cinematic cultural landscape. In other words, you know, to just watch a damn film. Wah wah, it's so hard having a movie blog.

I hope this news isn't too shocking or duplicitous-seeming. Remember, it's me, not you, and we'll always be friends, I swear.

Anyway, the cover art for Alucarda has intrigued me for quite some time and as I was taught to always judge a book by its cover (GAWD I hope no ugly people read Final Girl), I decided to finally give the movie a try. My expectations were...not exactly low, necessarily, but seeing as that the DVD release hails from Mondo Macabro, I certainly had an idea of what was in store for me: super fake blood, tits, and any manner of "-ploitation" from all around the world. Don't get me wrong- Mondo Macabro flicks are a lot of fun (if you haven't seen Dangerous Seductress or Lady Terminator yet, I suggest you do so ASAP for a craptacular good time), but not typically something I'd review here. But dammit, slap my knee and call me Debralee Scott- there's something to this so-called Alucarda...and so here we are, together on The Internet, me writing and you reading. Whooda thunkit?

Welcome to the convent: they've got fun and games an odd, cave-like structure set deep in the countryside- a place where orphaned girls can live and learn about God from nuns who dress like blood-stained mummies and flagellate themselves somewhat regularly. New arrival Justine (Susana Kamini) and lifer Alucarda (Tina Romero) strike up a friendship that quickly evolves to include copious amounts of frolicking and secret-keeping. That spells trouble!

After crossing paths with a gypsy (Claudio Brook) who hints at the aforementioned trouble, the girls frolic their way into a crypt. Alucarda is drawn to a coffin and opens it- little does she know that the dessicated corpse inside is actually her mother. Oh noes! Opening the coffin releases some evil spirits or something, and Alucarda flips out.

Somehow, it seems, the girls have just been inducted into Satan's Junior Cadets. What does this mean? It means that Justine and Alucarda totally hate God now and invoke the name of Satan to the horror of the entire convent. It means the girls scream a lot and can't stand the sight of a crucifix. It means the gypsy magically appears in their room one night and helps the girls perform their blood pact in service to Satan: Justine and Alucarda get naked, cut each other, drink each other's blood a bit, and make out. I know how that reads on paper, yet somehow this scene managed to be about as erotic as an average episode of Matlock. The girls are then led to the gypsy camp where everyone is naked and hairy and dancing around in a circle; the orgy proper begins and Beelzebub appears- well, I wasn't sure if it was actually supposed to be Beelzebub or if it was a gypsy in a ceremonial Beelzebub mask, but I suppose it makes no difference. The girls are now officially Satan's Little Helpers!

Meanwhile, back at the convent, Sister Angelica (Tina French), ever protective of Justine and Alucarda, feels that evil is afoot and so she begins to pray super ultra hard. She prays so super ultra hard, in fact, that she begins to sweat blood and leviatate, which was pretty fucking cool. That actually happened to me right before I took the SATs- man, I was nervous about getting into the college of my choice.

Later on, the girls' behavior gets so outrageous (more screaming, more Satan's name-invoking) that the priests and nuns begin ruminating on the possibility that the girls are possessed. When Justine takes dreadfully ill, Dr Oszek (Claudio Brook) is called in to treat her; when his leeches don't seem to take care of the problem, it becomes clear: the girls are, in fact, possessed. That means...it's exorcismin' time!

Justine and Alucarda are each tied to a cross while the nuns writhe around on the floor and scream. Justine is stripped nude (naturally) and...poked with a nail or something (again, naturally) until she's dead. Dr Oszek rushes in and berates everyone for this bizarre exercise in making no sense; before they can kill Alucarda as well, he takes her away to his house and to safety.

Little does he know, however, that the members of the convent were right- the girls were possessed! Whilst lying in shroud and awaiting burial, Justine's body disappears; the nun who was attending the body is found burned to death. She springs back to life, however, and must be decapitated- this is enough to prove to Dr Oszek that science is bunk and there's definitely something supernatural going on here.

Sister Angelica finds Justine in the crypt, lying in a coffin full of blood. Justine scratches and bites Angelica to death before being killed- for good this time!- by some refreshing spritzes of holy water.

Alucarda, meanwhile, has befriended Dr Oszek's blind daughter Daniela (Lili Garza). The two return to the convent where Alucarda, still pissed off over Justine's death, lays the smack down all Sissy Spacek in Carrie style, tearing down the building and setting people on fire.

You know, if I ever had to be (or decided to be) possessed, I'd much rather follow Alucarda's example than that of Regan in The Exorcist. I mean, really. What did Regan do? She got gross and laid in bed all the time, that's what she did. Alucarda keeps her good looks, and all she has to do to set a nun on fire is glare and yell "Beelzebub!". She's a proactive minion of Satan, and Regan sure seems awfully lazy in comparison.

As Alucarda rampages, some nuns carry in the dead body of Sister Angelica. Angelica suddenly opens her eyes, and Alucarda simply can't stand up to Angelica's Super Stare of Piety. I think George Michael said it best when he said
'Cause I gotta have faith...
Mmm, I gotta have faith
'Cause I gotta have faith, faith
Mmm 'cause I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith-a

Alucarda is an odd duck to be sure, but one worth checking out if only for the visuals alone. Director Juan Lopez Moctezuma has created a bizarre, surreal world full of striking imagery, particularly in regards to the setting. At times it's blatantly artificial, an approach which, when coupled with the cast's tendency to overact, gives the film an almost fairy tale-like quality.

Despite the trashy overtones and the irritating amount of screaming (seriously, there's more screaming here than there was when The Beatles played Wembley in '64), it seems as if there just might be a deeper meaning to Alucarda. Mexican filmmakers of the era, after all, were much like American filmmakers of the era; by and large they sought to provide a viewpoint and/or social commentary in their work. Is Alucarda, then, perhaps an indictment of the Catholic Church? It's entirely possible that it is, particularly if one views the "possession" in the film as an allegory for "free love" or even homosexuality. On the other hand, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a movie about vaguely lesbian Catholic girls who become possessed by Satan and turn into fire-starting pseudo-vampires is just a movie about vaguely lesbian Catholic girls who become possessed by Satan and turn into fire-starting pseudo-vampires.

12 comments:

Sad man said...

LOL. The picture of the girls looking at eachother in a more than friendly way and the giant goat behind is hilary...ous (Not clinton). This movie sounds like weird, I'll want to take a showe after I see it, fun.

Nice review.

Chuckwilson said...

Alucarda is truly a bizarre film. I watched it at friend's house who collects all Mondo Macbro releases-like you said, you know what you're getting into when you watch one of their titles. I did enjoy the crazy,surreal, dreamlike imagery...but the "out there" plot, constant screaming, and even more constant nudity (these ladies are not that attractive-I know, I'm a pig!)kinda ruined it for me

Theron said...

This sounds like a near-perfect movie, Stacie Ponder!

And remember, boys and girls:
Alucarda is "A Dracula" backwards...

Mmmm, Debralee Scott's overbite was sexy.

Bill Walsh said...

Good stuff. Oh, hey, Theron beat me to it. I was going to note that, if you value your red-blood-cell count, stay away from anyone named "Alucarda" or "Count Alucard" or the like. Probably good to avoid "Rad Caul" or "Arc Dual" or "à la Crud" just to be safe.

While I'd never underestimate the anti-clericalism in a Latin movie, I'm guessing this is more a riff on the psycho-lesbo-vampiro-satanic horror films that were au courant in Europe in the '70s than a direct anti-Catholic allegory. But you never know...

Theron said...

Like Bill Walsh said:

"...a riff on the psycho-lesbo-vampiro-satanic horror films that were au courant in Europe in the '70s..."

Pretty much the perfect movie...

Heather Santrous said...

Everyone has their own idea of what a good movie is as well as their own idea of what attractive is. I really enjoyed this movie and probably have to put it in my top ten but that is me. Sure the screaming got old after a while but it was something I could overlook and still enjoy the movie. I guess I like these types of movies, the out there and very weird.

Stacie Ponder said...

I think the girls are quite attractive, myself. Granted, they need some serious hair conditioner, but you know...it was the '70s. It's a fun movie.

Moctezuma was really the only Mexican filmmaker of the era who wanted to try horror and apparently he was a big vampire nut...but I think he also wanted to make a statement and push some boundaries with this film.

The McGuffin said...

"and they told two friends..."

I don't know, Stacie. I guess they have a 70's, earthy, lounging on beanbags, listenin' to Bread, breakin' out the macrame plant holders type of thing happening.

But, the more I look at the DVD cover, the more I'm convinced that's a picture of Lou Reed with a wig. A satanic Lou Reed with a wig. I don't need any of that in my bidness.

cattleworks said...

I don't have time to read this review, but it already rocks!
You mention ALUCARDA, DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS and LADY TERMINATOR in the same review!
I swoon!
Meanwhile, just yesterday BY COINCIDENCE, I bought another Mondo Macabro release: SATAN'S BLOOD!

Oooh, I have to sit down. Wait I'm already sitting down.
I have to sit down MORE...

Amanda By Night said...

I also think the women are quite attractive, and pretty fine actresses too.

I got this movie on a whim for, like, $1 and it was money well spent. It's a unique film, not to mention an interesting look at the Mexican culture of the time.

Alucarda Rules
Boys Drool!

cattleworks said...

"a la Crud"-- ha ha ha!

ALUCARDA for a buck! THAT is money well spent!

I'll have to chime in and also say that I think the two actresses in this film are hot stuff. Even the scene that you compare to Matlock I thought was interesting... although if I watch this film and consistently think of Andy Griffith in a white suit during this scene from now on... I'm gonna be mighty upset and pissed, Ms. Ponder!
This film's great! And weird! And great for it's weirdness!
And Tina Romero as Alucarda is fascinatingly intense.
Also, director Moctezuma had associations with writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who has a box set of DVDs being released-- more awesome surreality!

The screaming IS something. I think there's a quote on the DVD box from Psychotronic Video that referes to the screaming. In fact, I think it's edited in the film to maximize the screaming effect. Seriously, when the girls have a screaming scene, I think they've doubled the length of the screaming (really loud screaming) by replaying the same shot of the actress screaming.
It's an interesting choice and funny, if you're watching late at night and trying not to wake anybody up in the house.

"Jesus, she's loud! Oh my God, she's still going at it! Where's the remote!!?"
"What the hell's going on downstairs!?"
"Nothing! Sorry!"
"Is that a possessed naked girl screaming?"
"Uh, maybe... Shit!
"
But ALUCARDA is a nice example of thoughtful filmmaking, and less about a huge budget, which is always a positive thing to see.
And I like the "foreign" aspect of it, which is a way stupid way of putting it (sorry), but in the best way that foreign films expose you to different perspectives, lifestyles and ideas, I think this film does so to, with the depiction of this convent in a cave. It's so strange. I wonder if it's all imagined by Moctezuma, or actually has some historical, Mexican precedent that Mexican audiences are actually familiar with, like we are in the US when we see something about the Klan and lynching in a film (to pull up a totally arbitrary historical example, but the only thing I can think of right now), it's something in our history that we're (at least) vaguely familiar with.
The recent South Korean monster movie THE HOST struck me the same way, with its take on S.K. authorities and corruption.
The extras on the ALUCARDA DVD are cool, too, including the little interview with director Guillermo del Toro, who I just love for his childlike, passionate, guileless enthusiasm for cinema. I just want to be his buddy and yak about movies with him and help him make movies!
But, I ramble...

Stacie, you cracked me up about the SATs!

Mariana said...

I think I would enjoy reading this story, if you haven't already:

http://www.sff.net/people/DoyleMacdonald/l_carmil.htm

It's called Carmilla, and I imediately recognized the lesbian vampirism, and the coffin with blood. It's really very well written!