Alice, Sweet Alice
|Alice, Sweet Alice|
movie poster for the 1978 release
|Directed by||Alfred Sole|
|Produced by||Richard K. Rosenberg
|Written by||Rosemary Ritvo
|Music by||Stephen J. Lawrence|
|Editing by||Edward Salier|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists
Anchor Bay Entertainment (1997 video release)
|Release dates||November 13, 1976|
|Running time||98 min
108 min (unrated version)
Alice, Sweet Alice (also known as Communion or Holy Terror) is a 1976 independent American slasher film co-written and directed by Alfred Sole, and starring Linda Miller, Paula Sheppard, and Brooke Shields. The narrative focuses on a troubled adolescent girl who becomes a suspect in the brutal murder of her younger sister at her first communion.
The film premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival under the title Communion in November 1976, and was released theatrically as Alice, Sweet Alice in 1978. It was re-released a third time as Holy Terror in 1981, marketing upon the popularity of Brooke Shields after her notorious performance in Louis Malle's Pretty Baby (1978). The film ranked #89 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene when Alice scares Karen in the warehouse. In 1977 there was a book adaptation of the film titled Communion by Frank Lauria. 
The film is set in Paterson, New Jersey in the early 1960s. Catherine Spages (Linda Miller) is visiting Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) with her two daughters, who both attend St. Michael's Parish Girls' School: 9-year-old Karen (Brooke Shields) and 12-year-old Alice (Paula Sheppard). Karen is preparing for her First Communion and Father Tom gives her his mother's crucifix as a gift. A jealous Alice puts on a creepy, translucent grinning mask, frightening Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton), Father Tom's housekeeper. Later, Alice steals Karen's porcelain doll and lures her into an abandoned building with it. She jumps out and scares Karen with the grinning mask and locks her in a room. When she lets her out she tells her that if anyone finds out, she'll never see the doll again.
On the day of the First Communion, Karen is attacked and strangled to death, by a person in a translucent mask and yellow raincoat, in a back room as the children enter the front of the church. Her body is dragged away by her right arm and dumped into a bench compartment, which is set on fire with a candle, but not before ripping the crucifix from her neck. Smoke begins to fill the church. Meanwhile, Alice enters the church, carrying her shiny yellow raincoat. She kneels in Karen's place to receive communion when a scream is heard. A curious nun had entered the back room where the confessionals are located, and found Karen's body. People run in, horrified. Catherine is inconsolable.
After Karen's funeral, Catherine's ex-husband Dominick "Dom" Spages (Niles McMaster) arrives in town to help track down the killer. Catherine's sister, Annie DeLorenze (Jane Lowry), moves in to help Catherine through her grief, but it is soon evident that Alice and Annie despise each other. Catherine tells Alice to deliver a rent cheque to their landlord, Mr. Alphonso (Alphonso DeNoble). After he fondles and tries to molest her, Alice kills one of his many cats and goes down to the basement, where she lights a candle and puts on her grinning mask.
Descending the stairs to go shopping, Annie is viciously attacked; a raincoated figure in a grinning mask stabs her in the knee, foot, and thigh. At the hospital, Annie cries to her husband Jim (Gary Allen) that Alice tried to kill her. Catherine says that Annie is only accusing Alice of murdering Karen to divert attention from her own daughter Angela (Kathy Rich), who was absent at the time of the murder, but Alice is sent to a mental institution for evaluation.
At the hospital with Father Tom, Dom receives a phone call from Angela saying that she has Karen's crucifix and is in hiding. They agree to meet at an abandoned building. Dom follows the killer inside and up the stairs where the killer stabs him in the shoulder and he is knocked out by a brick and tied up. Dom awakens and sees that the killer is in fact Mrs. Tredoni. She killed Karen because she believes that "children pay for the sins of the parents." She reveals that she stabbed Annie by mistake, thinking it was Catherine, whom she considers a whore. She calls Dom and Catherine sinners because they had premarital sex. After Dom bites the crucifix off her neck, Mrs. Tredoni beats him with a rock and pushes him out of the window.
After a pathologist (veteran actress Lillian Roth in one of her last roles) analyzes Dom's corpse, the crucifix is found and Alice is released. When Catherine and Alice go to church Mrs. Tredoni sneaks into the apartment building. As Mrs. Tredoni bangs on his apartment door, Mr. Alphonso wakes up screaming (Alice put a jar of cockroaches on his belly before leaving). He spots Mrs. Tredoni and mistakes her for Alice. She stabs him twice and runs downstairs. However, a policeman witnesses her running out of the back entrance without the mask on.
Mrs. Tredoni goes to church, where the police are stationed outside. Father Tom denies her communion. Mrs. Tredoni points at Catherine, screams that he gave communion to a whore, and violently stabs Father Tom in the neck as the police rush in. The final shot features Alice walking out of the church with Mrs. Tredoni's shopping bag, looking at the bloodstained butcher knife, and glaring at the camera.
Production and release
The film was shot on location in Paterson, New Jersey in 1976, though the film is set in the early 1960s. The film marked the debut for Brooke Shields, who was offered the role in the film after director Alfred Sole saw a photo of her in a magazine. It was also actress Paula Sheppard's debut. Sheppard was 19 when she played 12-year-old Alice.
The movie premiered on November 13, 1976 under the title Communion in the town of Paterson. Two years later, following starlet Brooke Shields' rise to notoriety, the film was re-released under the title Alice, Sweet Alice, which is what the film is most commonly known as. It was also released a third time as Holy Terror. According to director Alfred Sole, Columbia Pictures expressed interest in distributing the film in 1976; however, following legal "friction" concerning rights to the movie, Columbia Pictures dropped the film. Allied Artists then picked up the film for distribution, and forced the filmmakers to change the title from Communion to Alice, Sweet Alice, in fear that the public would perceive the film to be religious due to its title. A book tie-in had been written in conjunction with the film through Bantam Books, under the title Communion; the book's title was never altered.
AllMovie called the film an "eerie, effective chiller". Slant Magazine noted in their review of the film: "Possibly the closet American relation to an Italian giallo, the film is head-trippingly hilarious (Jane Lowry, as Aunt Annie, may be the nuttiest screamer in the history of cinema) and features some of the more disquieting set pieces you'll ever see in a horror film.