Greetings, Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World! Wes hooked me up with a screener copy of ALYCE KILLS, a 2011 offering from director Jay Lee (who had previously directed ZOMBIE STRIPPERS!) that will be available on VOD May 21st and in theaters May 24th. The movie sounded interesting; here’s the synopsis:
Life takes a downward spiral for Alyce after a night of partying goes terribly wrong and she accidentally pushes her best friend off of a building. Panicked, Alyce lies to the police about her involvement. When she later learns that her friend miraculously survived, she begins to unravel; losing sleep, her job, and eventually her sanity. There is only one way for her to take control… But will she stop with just one murder?
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Alyce (Jade Dornfeld) and Caroll (Tamara Feldman) are two hip, urbane 20-somethings having a bad day. Alyce is an obscure, faceless drone toiling in the bowels of a morally-questionable white-collar firm. Caroll just caught her boyfriend cheating on her. The first third of the film is a character study of these two women as they seek solace in each other’s company (not in the sapphic way) and go through red velvet cake, red wine, and then harder drugs in efforts to console themselves. We’re introduced to these women as they’re unraveling, baring their souls as they perceive their world crumbling around them.
With Carroll’s fall from the roof, the film shifts to fixate on Alyce as she begins a downward spiral into guilt, self-loathing, paranoia and despair, relying more and more on drug-usage to try and “hold herself together.” It doesn’t work, and before long she’s a hallucinatory wreck – the kind of figure I imagine as a more believable presentation of the “Quirky Single Girl” archetype embodied in every character played by Zooey Deschanel. There are attempts in this section to create the sort of blurring of reality and hallucination that made VIDEODROME so memorable, but it doesn’t quite work for me – the hallucinatory sequences were a little too arthouse in their presentation to truly blur boundaries.
The third act, well, I won’t spoil the explosive climax, but let’s just say the tone shifts again into the realm of fountaining splatterpunk, like the bastard offspring of early Sam Raimi and Eli Roth.
I thought the film seemed over-ambitious in what it was trying to accomplish. I felt like the filmmakers couldn’t decide what kind of film they wanted to make – serious character study, psychological ghost story, outrageous slasher – and tried to make all three at once. I thought each third of the film was solid enough on its own, and if I’d had longer with the screener (time-sensitive digital screeners. C’est la vie.) I’d watch each third on a separate night. The first third is a really good character study, the second third is an excellent psychological ghost thriller, and the final third is a fantastic slasher. But the film does not transition smoothly from one to another, and suffers for those jarring jumps.
Visually, the film runs the gamut. There are some beautifully shot sequences with absolutely brilliant mise en scène; a specific sequence of Caroll vomiting a brilliant, rusty red comes to mind, grabbing the viewer and demanding that they ask themselves what’s happened to this girl that she’s vomiting blood. Other sequences…there’s an emphasis on (what I assume to be intentionally) out-of-focus shots, even in the first third of the film, that struck me as awkward and too highly suggestive of a dream-like atmosphere to be appropriate in the first third of the film, being more properly fitting in the second.
Overall, I’m going to split the difference and give this film a solidly middling review. It’s not perfect, it’s not terrible, I liked it better than ZOMBIE STRIPPERS! but I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to purchase a copy of the film.