Saturday, April 16, 2011
#105: Alucarda (Juan Lopez Moctezuma, 1978)
Michael Weldon, in his Psychotronic Video Guide, paid Alucarda a mighty compliment, which Mondo Macabro, the company releasing this film on video in the U.S., shrewdly blurbed on the cover of the DVD: "More blood, loud screaming, and nudity than any horror film I can think of." Weldon's statement is not factual, but it is true. There's a difference between truth and facts. I've seen more blood and more nudity and heard more screaming, but I've never seen such expressive use of all three in one film. In many ways, Alucarda is incompetent, ridiculous, and stupid. It's also transcendent, ridiculous, and right fucking on.
Narratively, Alucarda is a piece of junk. The dialogue is shit. The characters have no motivation for anything they do. The camera movements are awkward and graceless. The zoom lens is out of control, like a bad high school kid during last period on Friday with a substitute teacher. The editing is troglodytic. That doesn't matter. This movie is bananas. Ba-motherfucking-nanas. Tina Romero, as Alucarda, is one of the great movie faces. I'm talking Maria Falconetti, Gena Rowlands, Ida Lupino, Tuesday Weld, Lynn Lowry, Sissy Spacek, Grace Zabriskie. The kind of female screen face whose beauty is beside the point. Interesting, captivating facial expressions and features that you can't stop looking at and that can't be framed in any non-cinematic way (unless they're working with a piece of shit like Oliver Stone). Besides her face, Romero can scream like nobody's business. She has the most interesting scream I've ever heard. I generally find screaming, on film and in real life, cloying and ear-tiring. I could listen to Romero scream all day. I don't know if this makes any sense. You have to see this movie to make sense of it, and I can't really recommend this movie to anyone who doesn't have my peculiar taste and hard-to-explain aesthetic. I'm a fan of the auteur theory. My primary, and sometimes only, decision in seeing a movie is the person who directed it. That's not true with horror films, though, and particularly untrue in this case. This is, in many ways, a bad movie, maybe even a terrible movie. But it has so much to offer. It's a fucking weird experience. If you like weird experiences, you should see it.
A plot description for a movie that has no idea how to tell a story, which is different than choosing not to tell a story. Moctezuma is trying, but doesn't know how. Still, he's got something. In an extra on the DVD, Guillermo del Toro talks about how Moctezuma hosted a late-night Mexican TV show that aired horror, sci-fi, and fantasy silent films on weekends. This helped me better understand Moctezuma's aesthetic. He would have made a great silent filmmaker. He's fantastic with closeups, with nightmare logic, with lighting, with facial expressions. He's bad with a lot of other things. In horror, his strengths are welcome and his weaknesses are easy to forgive.
Oh yeah, that plot. A girl (really, a full-grown woman playing a teenage girl) enters a Christian orphanage after the death of her parents. Her roommate, Alucarda (spell it backwards), has a bizarre fascination with death. Immediately, these two ladies get the pseudo-lesbian hots for each other and vow to die together one day. (Things move fast in 78-minute films). On a stroll in the countryside, they meet a deformed, hunchbacked gypsy (Bunuel regular Claudio Brook) and unwisely follow him to his camp. They buy some shit, including a large dagger, and head back to the orphanage. I won't explain how, but these young ladies become possessed by Satan and start taking off their clothes, staring crazily, blowing up shit, sucking the blood from each other's breasts after slicing the breasts open with a knife, giving some hardcore Satanic sass-back to the Christians, screaming like beautiful banshees, and freaking everyone the fuck out. A lot of stuff happens after this, and none of it makes any narrative sense. Claudio Brook shows up again in a second role as a straitlaced doctor. You see a lot of naked people, a lot of blood, and hear a lot of screaming. God Bless Mexico!
I don't know what else to say. This movie is a prime example of the bizarre virtues and weaknesses of filmmaking. Something can be a piece of trash and an oddly beautiful piece of something else at the same time. I don't know whether I'm overpraising this thing or selling it short. Maybe I'm just a fan of the time when women didn't make their private junk look like an elementary school girl's business. Maybe I like blood, breasts, Satan, fire, and Christians getting their comeuppance. Maybe I had some free time on a Friday night and this filled the bill. Or maybe it's great.
Come on, everybody. Who doesn't love Mexican lesbian Satan-possessed adult women posing as teenagers with a vague connection to the Dracula mythology? Who doesn't love a movie where the actors are speaking English but came to it as, at most, a second language? Who doesn't love life, my friends? Who doesn't love life? And who doesn't love death? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Alucarda! Whoop! Whoop!