The story of the Lonely Hearts Killers, a couple who murdered as many as 20 women between 1947 and 1949, has been adapted to cinema multiple times, the most famous of which is the 1969 cult film The Honeymoon Killers. The popularity of this material in pop culture is not surprising, since the public has always been obsessed with serial killers. And once you add a romance angle to such depraved acts, you've struck gold as far the serial killer sub-genre is concerned. Putting aside the Lonely Hearts Killers as a specific case, how many times have we seen the story of a couple of psychopaths who become obsessed with each other and decide to go on a murder spree?
There are many different approaches to exploit this simple premise. For example, Ben Wheatley's brilliant 2013 dark comedy Sightseers turned this otherwise grim subject matter into a wacky satire about the British class system. Instead of focusing on the sensational facts of the original case, Alleluia takes the outline of the Lonely Hearts Killers and digs inwards, creating a truly unsettling character study about a couple of deeply disturbed people whose occupation happens to be luring old rich women into their trap before violently killing them.
At first, lonely and introverted morgue worker Gloria (Lola Duenas) is yet another victim to intense yet charismatic Michel's (Laurent Lucas, who looks like a leaner and more psychopathic Christoph Waltz) usual scam. After sleeping with Gloria, Michel cons her into giving him money, and predictably disappears. However, he underestimates Gloria's growing obsession with him, and ends up stuck with her after Gloria tracks her down. The two decide to team up in order to murder unsuspecting women and steal their money.
At first, Gloria's morgue experience seems to be an advantage for Michel, especially when it comes to body disposal. But as Gloria's obsession with Michel intensifies, the power dynamics between the two begins to change, leading to a truly disturbing climax. Alleluia is a gritty experience that's truly grim and dour, with some bizarre touches here and there that makes sure not to dip into camp while also giving the film a unique voice (An impromptu musical number is accompanied by an extremely graphic scene of dismemberment).
What I appreciated the most about Belgian director Fabrice Du Weltz's tonal approach is that he never treats his profoundly disturbed protagonists with a sense of emotionally distanced visceral fun. Just like the recently discovered cult serial killer flick Angst, we are meant to directly enter the minds of the killers, whether we like to or not. That fact gives Alleluia a lower replay rating, but the film is recommended to fans of the sub-genre who might be looking for a more different and more intense experience.
Alleluia's gritty handheld look is perfectly captured in this 1080p presentation. The film was shot on 16mm and proudly shows it. The use of contrast and silhouettes is essential to the experience and those elements are transferred very well, along with a healthy amount of grain.
Even though it's a gruesome genre piece, the horror in Alleluia mostly comes out of the intense character work. That's why the dialogue-heavy film doesn't support a very powerful DTS-HD 5.1 track. However, the dialogue is very clean and the mix shows some depth whenever the intense music kicks in.
A Wonderful Love: A more comically gruesome horror short from Fabrice Du Weltz, about a woman who kills a man and keeps his body around for companionship.
Home Cinema: An episode of the Belgian film show where Fabrice Du Weltz's career and style is discussed.
Shooting Alluluia: A pretty standard 10-minute making of featurette.
Cut Scenes: 16 minutes of deleted material that focuses mostly on mood and atmosphere.
Setting the Scene: A very short interview with the film's production designer, Manu de Maulemeester.
Interviews with the Actors: Three short interviews with the actors who play the two killers, as well as Helena Noguerra, who plays one of their victims.
Commentary by Fabrice Du Weltz: The director's English is not perfect, but he does a good job describing the details and inspirations of the production.
We also get a Trailer.
Alleluia takes its unoriginal premise and turns it into a uniquely visual experience, one that won't be easily forgotten, mostly thanks to the intense performances. A double feature with The Honeymoon Killers would be perfect for film students who want to study how the same story could be executed with completely opposite visual and narrative approaches.