Sunday, May 15, 2011

Alucarda (1978)

Alucarda is an unheralded gem and even within the horror community I don’t think too many people are familiar with this Mexican film by Juan López Moctezuma. This is a pity, because the film boasts beautiful visuals, controversial themes and violent deaths.

Alucarda is about two teenage girls living in a Catholic convent that also serves as an orphanage. Justine arrives at the convent after her parents die, leaving no one to care for her. Taken in by the nuns (who wear weird, mummy-like wrappings) Justine is placed in a room with Alucarda and the two girls quickly become inseparable. On a walk in the forest one day, they happen on a band of gypsies selling charms and trinkets. After a gypsy tells Alucarda and Justine they have only darkness in their future, the girls run away and stumble upon an enormous old crypt in the middle of the woods. While they are exploring, they open an old coffin and unleash a demonic force that possesses them. Back at the convent, the demonic force is unleashed upon the kind nuns and other inhabitants.

The visuals of the film border on gothic, with misty forests, decrepit crypts and Catholic imagery. The convent itself is lit by flickering candles and its sparse, utilitarian rooms are only decorated with crosses. Its church has rows upon rows of crosses, each fitted with an agonizing Christ. The stone crypt that the girls explore is festooned with faded red banners, creepy statues and lots of vines growing over everything. The gothic feel is reminiscent of many old Hammer films, with the subject matter just being a bit more dark and controversial.

For its time, the film was controversial, as it dealt with lesbianism, Satanism, sacrilege, the occult and more. While these themes are considered “tame” today, don’t be mistaken – the film still packs a punch. From a kiss that turns into Alucarda licking the blood off a naked Justine, to a gypsy Satanist that can invoke the Devil, to bloody psychic nuns to midnight orgies, to reanimated corpses to a fiery, Carrie-esque conclusion, this film will definitely keep your attention.

However, I feel like the above paragraph also does a disservice to Alucarda, as it is as not as exploitative as it may seen. The arresting visuals, engaging storyline and multi-layered themes heighten the film and make it into something much more substantial than your standard exploitative occult flick. The themes of evil corrupting even the most innocent, but also of redemption and ultimate faith, will resonate with viewers, regardless on their view of religion.

Alucarda is an underrated gem, and one that more fans of classic horror should definitely seek out.

Buy it on Amazon!

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