Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 02/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Alucarda (Juan Lopez Moctezuma, 1978)
There's something about seventies horror movies that really gets to me. Not in a scary way, mind you, and not (I don't think, anyway) in a nostalgic way. There's much more of a feeling of transgression in a movie like Alucarda than there is in the latest slasher picture in 2008; while there are certainly still guys who are pushing the envelope (in America, anyway; Eli Roth isn't doing anything Hideshi Hino didn't do twenty years before him, but a lot more Americans saw Hostel than will ever see Mermaid in a Manhole), there's a different feel about the seventies horror romps than there are about the new pictures. Perhaps there was more of an immediacy to envelope-pushing back in the seventies? With so much more being socially acceptable nowadays thanks to the wonders of basic cable, you'd think a movie like Alucarda would feel dated in its extremity, almost boring. And yet that's not the case. I grant you, there's very little in here (aside from the full frontal nudity) you wouldn't see on episodes of certain TV dramas these days, but somehow it still comes across as an over-the-top sex-and-violence extravaganza with serious, and rather ugly, undertones.
The story concerns two lovely young ladies, Alucarda (Tina Romero) and Justine (Susanna Kamini), who are growing up in a Catholic orphanage. Alucarda was taken there just after her birth, while Justine has only recently arrived after the death of her parents. Some odd, otherwordly bond connects the two girls, and it is solidified by a band of gypsies they meet on one of their long walks through the woods (and the process of that solidification is one of the scenes in this movie that's going to have you saying "what the hell was Moctezuma smoking when he made this movie, and where can I get some?"). The process lets the devil out of the young girls and into the convent, in a way, to be fought by the only rational human being left in the movie, Dr. Oszek (Claudio Brook). To say any more about the plot would be to reveal major spoilers for the film, but I can't really describe the enormity of the insanity to be found here without doing so. You'll have to trust me on this-- Alucarda, despite being relatively tame with its sex and gore, goes a lot farther, conceptually, than many more modern films that have trod in its footsteps.
It's tempting, in retrospect, to see this more as a period-piece version of something like The Exorcism of Emily Rose crossed with a good dose of The Devil's Rain; it would certainly convey the atmosphere better (despite the obvious play on words in the title and a number of reviews I've read, the story is far less about vampirism than it is about demonic possession). But the sex and violence angle seems to take a backseat in Moctezuma's film (and Alexis Arroyo's scrrenplay) to the attack on the Church. Granted, Moctezuma softens the blow by having the Church, in this film, be a weird, radical offshoot of Catholicism, but it's still obviously an offshoot of Catholicism (and it's entirely possible Moctezuma simply wanted to portray the whole Catholic church as this particular flavor of crazy; a good deal of Father Lazaro's speech should put the viewer in mind of the Inquisition). Given that, the rather tame nature of the prurient scenes makes sense (they're just seasoning, rather than the main dish), and Alucarda could probably be used as a textbook by more modern directors as to how to integrate such things into their movies, keeping the prurient interest, while still making them at least somewhat integral to the plot; one cannot help but think "communion" during the gypsy ritual, for example.
I can't believe it's taken me this long to see this movie, and I cannot but urge the rest of you who haven't seen it to do so at your earliest opportunity. Yeah, it does have its flaws, but they are eclipsed by the many, many strengths here; the script is very good, the set design is fabulous, the costume designer was truly inspired (though by what I've no idea), Moctezuma's direction is at least competent enough to pay tribute to these things, and the special effects are just cheesy enough to come across as charming rather than stupid. But what's really impressive is how all these things fit together to make this film the iconoclast masterpiece it is. ****
C. Christopher Blackshere | hampered by what's acceptable | 02/05/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Demonic possession, south of the border. That pretty much sums Alucarda up. Seizing the same
level of unconscionable evil and overwhelming fear that The Exorcist generated, Mexican director Juan Lopez Moctezuma unleashes the gates of Hell upon defenseless viewers in this bloodcurdling cult classic. This film is wicked.
The movie starts off somewhat incoherent, kinda like a Fulci or Rollins film. If you prefer everything spelled out for you, like in most American horror flicks, I'd avoid this one. But for extreme horror fans, this is a must see.
It takes place in a Mexican convent/orphanage. Young Alucarda and Justine meet there, and become close friends. To make a long story short, they both become possessed by some demonic entity and terrorize the convent.
Besides the unsettling demonic themes, this film intertwines the extreme violence with a high level of female sexuality and shocking blasphemous imagery. No crucifix masturbation scenes, but some things close to the same shock level. It is not meant for the timid viewer.
The climax is jam-packed all sorts of nudity and horrific bedlam. Very well shot and orchestrated, it will leave a lasting impression. Truly disturbing.
Overall, Alucarda has been ignored by critics and audiences alike, but is an unheralded gem amongst cult B-movie horror fans.
Carl Manes | 05/28/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Justine is thrust in to a depraved world of darkness when she meets the demonically possessed Alucarda, and together, the two set out to defile the church with their unsanctified evil. ALUCARDA serves as a biting critical response to the oppressive Catholic controls that were set on Mexican culture throughout the better half of the twentieth century. The film's arresting visuals, haunting score, and brilliant set pieces are quite unlike anything else in the genre, with each contributing to the surreal mysticism of the plot. Juan Lopez Moctezuma is unafraid to explore a rich and vivid color palette, contrasting hot and cool tones while using the screen as his own morbid canvas. The characters he introduces are equally colorful, depicting a variety of strange, offbeat personas that seem to have stepped out of the pages of some twisted fairy tale. Tina Romero's unnerving performance is wildly over the top, but her crazed shrieks and howls along with her deathly facial gestures will leave viewers believing that she truly is possessed. A culmination of Moctezuma's expressive style explodes on screen in the film's bloody finale, where Alucarda calls upon the powers of Satan to strike down the convent in a rain of fire. ALUCARDA is a compelling visual masterpiece that transforms the screen into a nightmarish vision of hell. It comes as no surprise that Moctezuma was a close colleague of the equally brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky, director of SANTA SANGRE, let alone an inspiration to other talented Mexican filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro. This possession tale cannot be overlooked, and it still stands as one of the strongest Mexican exports in the genre.
I Like Horror Movies"