DVD Review: THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D

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SHOCK reviews the unfortunate indie slog THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D.

When you have no dough, but a desire to make art, it’s probably the greatest period of creative fertility you’ll ever have. Because you can do whatever you want. No one is breathing down your neck. No one expects anything. You can break rules. Make new ones.

This is the truth.

Which is why it drives me plum loco when I stumble upon impoverished indie movies whose sole goal rests in trying their damnedest to make simple, lazy product.  Not art. Just junk, suitable only as filler for a Netflix cue. Movies that hit every sour note, sneeze out every cliché. It’s unfortunate. It really is.

When studios slop out junk, at least they come armed with enough cash to make their swill go down sweetly. At least they can distract you from staring at their zits too closely with a whole bunch of lush bell-and-whistle trickery.

Which brings us to THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D, an indie film (out now from RLJ Entertainment) that hasn’t a brain in its skid row skull and not one millisecond of inspiration. Usually I avoid discussing movies I strongly dislike, so consider this review an exorcism. Because I found ALICE D rather offensive and need to get that contemptuous poison out of my system. Apologies to the men and women who made the movie in advance…

THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D (as an aside, this Alice character does not get haunted…she haunts others, but no matter…) is doomed from the moment it begins. We start in a sort of washed out, sepia toned frame, a flashback to the early 1890’s, with an older prostitute sitting with a younger one on a bed while the camera dollies and pans around them. The first thing you notice is just how wonky the sound is. You can hear that tell-tale warble of a woefully compressed WAV file, beaten to a pulp in order to eliminate room tone and hiss. You know, that sound that sounds like the sound of gurgling ghosts trying to break through to the other side of the audio track. And no, this isn’t an act of thematic intent. It’s just really shitty audio rescue work. And it never lets up.

Worse, the dialogue it hampers is tin-eared and spoken by vapid non-actors.

Then, the camera man who is trying to capture this turgid word-trade with that aforementioned pan, trips on something and the camera jumps and then goes right back on its mission to finish the shot.

Now, if this were some sort of scrappy art film, hand-held or aiming for otherworldly, such a hiccup might be forgiven or might actually be part of the DIY mission statement. But ALICE D is aiming for lush period piece.  All this gaffe does is scream that the filmmaker just doesn’t care or is too inept to anticipate how such a thing might effectively start their opus off on a really bad foot.

Things do not get better when top-billed Kane Hodder shows up as a dandy pimp who looks exactly like Kane Hodder with a pair of pork chop sideburns. Presumably Hodder was pulled off a local convention floor and paid for a day’s work to appear in this dud.

Then, after its fuzzy, poorly rendered opening, we flash-forward to the present, where a new crew of young douche-bags have taken over the former brothel where the earlier events took place. And man, are these guys (and girls) awful. Mouthing useless and embarrassing, fake tough-bro dialogue, this collection of mis-cast actors and the unlikable, unknowable, unpleasant “characters” they play, are among the most woeful I’ve seen on screen in some time.

Having a single prick, maybe 2 or 3 of them even, is fine if you have anyone relatable to bounce their obnoxious natures off of.

But there is not one person here to root for or have any interest in spending any sort of time with. The men are dicks, the women are trash. Ugh.

And worse still is the look of the movie. Obviously shot on some sort of consumer grade camera, the film has been digitally filtered within an inch of its life, rendering the picture a blown out, brown and blurry, over-contrasted disaster. It actually hurts your eyes to watch this film.

But what’s THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D about, you’re asking me?

Well, okay. The plot.

The brothel in question is The Davenport House, overseen by a mean pimp (Hodder) who forces poor Alice D into prostitution until one day, she’s had enough and kills her tormentors…and herself. In the present day, the mean pimp’s mean heir summons his dipshit pals to the house to party with a gaggle of girlfriends and hookers. The ghost of Alice D shows up with her mouth open wide to spook the guests. Some people get killed. Some people go nuts. And all viewers mourn the 79 minute loss of their own lives enduring this tripe.

I’m being as blunt as possible about how terrible ALICE D is because I’m angry. I’m angry that the filmmaker (in this case writer/director Jessica Sonneborn) had the time and people power to make something with fire and edge and personality and simply settled on making a rote melodrama that she was ill-equipped to deliver.

The only element to emerge unscathed from the mess that is THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D is the score, an eloquent fake-symphonic soundscape by Carlos Vivas that is really evocative and artfully constructed and belongs in a better movie.

As is, Vivas’ work is like when you drop money renovating your kitchen but don’t have the bucks to fix up the rest of the dump.

I know. I did this once. And it was exactly like this movie.