The Haunting of Alice D Review
In which no Alice D's or anyone else really, for that matter, are haunted very much.
I would like nothing more than to sing the praises of The Haunting of Alice D. Made by an up and coming, multi-hyphenated, female horror director (of which there are far too few), Jessica Sonneborn, shot in an occasionally interesting and different way by cinematographer Eric Latek and featuring a small but awesome performance by Kane "His Name Was Jason" Hodder, there are definite elements about the film that I would love to support.
Even if I was to blame the illogical name of the movie and the poster image on the distributors desperately trying to capitalise on the never ending line of tedious 'Haunting' movies, that have plagued us horror fans over the last decade, I still couldn't forgive the movie for just being dull.
I have tried to see this as more of an "art-house" horror but even as a character study, or an indictment of the history of male abuse, or a comment on horror's objectification of women, or anything at all, it just fails, unfortunately. What substance it may think it has was lost on me among a see of unlikable, thinly drawn, caricatures and supposedly difficult or horrific sequences that didn't have the strength of their convictions. By the rushed, inexplicable, confusing, sudden and nothing ending I was absolutely numb.
The plot, such as it is, concerns an old house, once a brothel, in which young Alice D was sold, used and abused by fat, old, ugly, despicable white men. Cut forward a hundred years or more and the relation of the man who used to run the brothel, an obnoxious, irredeemable, egocentric, arrogant and unlikable bro-dude ass-clown, is hosting the least exciting party since your smelly Uncle Harold invited the family around to look at slides of that week's toenail clippings.
Him, his horribly unpleasant friends, some token prostitutes, a woman who's there by mistake (because she just needs the money) and the token 'nice guy in a bad pack' proceed to wander aimlessly around the house, occasionally making out in the most unpleasant and noisy ways and talking about nothing at all. These vapid, vain, vacant and unforgivably bland crew have so little to offer anyone, most of all the audience, that watching their behaviour should be treatment for insomnia. It was like one long, tedious episode of Entourage without a script or the occasional outburst from Matt Dillon's, less talented, younger brother.
Into this unbearable banality comes Alice D's ghost, who does very little for the majority of the running time except occasionally show up in a white dress and goth make up to hide behind a pillar or shut the odd door. It's mildly more interesting than one of those 'Paranormal Activity' movies, that make me want to severe my retinas and slam my head into a cartoonishly large anvil with boredom, but saying that is like saying watching coloured paint dry is mildly more interesting than watching white paint dry.
By the time Alice D's ghost does anything that could be considered at all interesting or shocking, it is in the last 5 minutes of the film and despite being too quick and too confusing, it is, at the very least, something. It's not scary exactly and would certainly be more satisfying if I understood anything that was going on, but it's effective in its own way.
Then it ends.
Just as it begins, it ends and not with a bang, a whimper, or even a muffled fart but with a blank screen and the credits rolling. You might then spend time trying to decipher what you just watched but sadly you weren't encouraged to care at all and instead you press stop, sigh and go about your evening. I am sorry to say that the film is so un-affecting that it didn't even confuse or bother me sufficiently that it just ended. There have been episodes of crappy ABC Network procedurals that have left me frustrated for hours because I missed something or because the plot seemed confusing but, sadly, The Haunting of Alice D didn't even engage me enough to the point of caring.
I'd, usually, be more than willing to accept that this is somehow all my fault and I didn't fully understand the film and its complexities but the job of a filmmaker is to communicate and successfully translate the script to an audience, via the actors, set decorator, cinematographer etc. so unless I am just stupid, which I don't think I am, that job just wasn't achieved.
I said, at the beginning of this review, that the cinematography had its moments. Well it did! It was high contrast, fairly grainy and had some interesting focus points but it was at least something different than I'd seen before. I read a review criticising it but of all the things I took away from this film that were positive, it was contained within Kane Hodder and the look of the piece.
The sound was atrocious, though, amateurishly picking up shoes clomping noisily along wooden, creaky floors and lips smacking during kissing scenes that sounded like someone blowing up a rubber raft with their highly greased buttocks but that had difficulty picking out actual dialogue. Also I don't remember a single thing about the score, if there even is one.
I don't like to tear a film down and it is not my habit to be an angry, nerd blogger railing against films he'd have no talent or ability to make himself but, unfortunately, in this case, I had no other choice.