Monday, May 5, 2014

Eat Me (says the ecstasy)

There has, and probably always will be, an eagerness for film fans to declare that there are no good horror movies being made in the present day. Horror is dead! grumpy bloggers cry, waving their fists in defeat and citing theatrical releases as their evidence of doom. 

Man do I hate cynical horror fans.

There is, in my annoyingly sunny opinion, never a bad time for cinema. There is, quite often, a bad time for mainstream cinema heading marquees, but anyone relying on theatrical releases in this day and age--particularly when it comes to horror--is denying themselves access to some truly fantastic and unique independent filmmaking. 

Courtesy of Bloody Disgusting Releases (a label with a patchy but sometimes positive track record), Alyce Kills is yet another example of how if you dig a tiny bit (or just scroll through Netflix Instant long enough), you'll find something worthwhile.

Quick Plot: Alyce is a sullen twentysomething barely making rent by fudging numbers at a hedge fund company for a supervisor who hates her (and happens to be the badass star of Once Were Warriors, Rena Owen). The only real happiness she seems to have in life comes courtesy of her best friend Carroll (Hatchet's first Marybeth, Tamara Feldman), a sexy free spirit drama queen who once pushed Alyce away when she felt her pal was getting a tad too Single White Female for comfort. 

Now reunited but not without their history, Alyce and Caroll embark on a night of drinking ruined by Carroll's discovery that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. To soften the blow, the gals do the sensible thing: see a skeevy drug dealer, take some ecstasy, and bring a bottle of champagne on Alyce's apartment building roof. 

What can possibly go wrong?

When a drunken Carroll makes a pointed jab at Alyce's obsession, things get very, very messy.


Miraculously, Carroll survives her fall only to be bedridden with a mangled face and irreplaceable jaw. Alyce has it worse.

Guilt-ridden and unable to cope, Alyce begins a downward spiral down the rabbit hole, enjoying the wonderland offerings of horny but well-educated drug pushers, awkward funeral actions, unfulfilling sex, and a whole lot of unrestrained violence.

Written and directed by Jay Lee, Alyce Kills follows an interesting pace all of its own. Lee gives us long conversations between Alyce and Carroll to open the film, nearly lulling us into the rhythms of modern mumblecore on a whole lot of booze. Once Carroll takes a tumble, the tone rather drastically changes as Alyce becomes increasingly unstable. It keeps us on our toes as viewers, particularly when we go from quiet hauntings to all-out beheadings.

In the titular role, Jade Dornfeld has the challenging task of carrying the film on petite and very conflicted shoulders. Much like Najarra Townsend's in the recent Contracted, we never REALLY get to know Alyce. We see bits of her in a cold, empty daily life and see how quickly it all falls apart, but it's hard to truly know what's going inside her troubled head. Thankfully, Dornfeld is engaging and intriguing in her performance. Rather than get us on Alyce's side, she seems to keep the character just out of our reach. It works.

Alyce Kills is an uneven movie, but that's part of its charm. I never quite knew what to expect, and in an era where movie fans continuously complain about the lack of originality, that's as big a compliment as one can give.

High Points
Alyce Kills is a weirdly funny film, one that kind of drags you down a completely different tone than what you started with. So long as you're along for the ride, you might find yourself laughing out loud, and that's a good (or maybe, sick) thing

Low Points
I suppose some viewers will take issue with Alyce being a rather unlikable character, but her mousy neediness and cowardice is ultimately what makes her so interesting to watch

Lessons Learned
Intensive care patients are woefully undersupervised in urban hospitals

Just because your drug dealer throws out terms like pre-war German expressionism does not mean he's a standup gentleman

No matter how smart it seems in the moment, hanging out on the roof of a high building is not, contrary to popular belief, the best idea you've had while high on ecstasy 

Alyce Kills will probably polarize a lot of viewers, which is the kind of statement that makes a film fan like me jump to add it to my Instant Queue. The film has a unique tone that won't work for everyone, but those looking for something new in horror might be quite pleased with what they find. Once again, I'm just happy to discover another fairly new filmmaker giving us a fresh look at the genre. Cheers to all.


  1. I watched this a while back... based on no information but the cover image. It's got an odd pacing that kept me off balance... I was never sure exactly where it was going... and like you mention, it's got a dark humor to it that I enjoyed a lot.

    1. It really did have a tone and pace unlike anything else that I can think of. I really appreciate that in a new horror film!