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Let's face it - the American Dream is over. No one in 2013 is going to graduate from college, get a career-oriented job, find their destined in the stars soulmate, buy a house, and pump out two point five kids before they hit 30. For many in this present day predicament, a sheepskin means little more than a lifetime of debt, a decision about graduate school (and more student loans), and one's already unsure place in an equally chaotic job market. Love is a never ending battle between social mediocrity and unreasonable expectations, and a piece of property is almost surely out of the question considering one's unsure earning potential and credit score. By the time one considers procreation, it's either a done deal (the result of a night of fun sans sensible protections) or a "wait and see" proposition that typically ends with shattered lives and child support payments. Instead, we looking at a generation returning to their parents home, lost in soulless employment with companies that would rather replace you with a mindless drone than admit that you actually are one and unable to really share themselves.
This is the world of Alyce, the lead in one of the most unlikely horror movies in recent years, Alyce Kills. Our heroine (Jade Dornfeld) works in one of those cold, isolated cubicles crunching numbers and passing time. She's awash in a post-party life she can't stand, lonely but unable to connect with most around her. She misses the days of running with her college pal Carroll (Tamara Feldman), but they have had a falling. One pigheaded boyfriend later and the duo decide to spend a wild weekend cutting loose. After too many drugs and too much alcohol, Alyce and Carroll find themselves standing on the roof of the former's apartment building. An accidental (?) push later and Carroll is in the ER and Alyce has turned a psychological corner. She becomes even more withdrawn and alienated. She self medicates, exchanging her body for the pharmaceuticals she so desperately needs. As the guilt over Carroll grows, Alyce comes to a startling conclusion. Only by murdering her friend can she save her sanity. Haunted by what has and will happen, we then witness a downward spiral of sickness, slaughter, and splatter.
If the plot description for Alyce Kills sounds a bit suspect, it's because this is a movie that needs to be experienced from beginning to end in order to appreciate its many intricacies and details. Every scene adds something to our understanding - of the character, her motivation, where she is headed, and the overwhelming sense of foreboding within these often unhinged circumstances. Writer/director Jay Lee (who showed none of this range with his other known work, the goofball exploitation effort Zombie Strippers) gives us the equivalent of an arthouse gore epic, a character study bathed in buckets of human blood. Granted, we get some at first, but by the time Alyce is diving headfirst into her planned salvation, the sluice is loose. Some films toss in arterial spray likes it's a genre mandate, making sure it keeps the fanbase (and the Karo syrup company) happy, but here, Lee makes the nastiness indicative of what Alyce is going through. The world has hollowed her out, made her less a person than a nameless, faceless figure. In order to reclaim her humanity, she decides to claim humans. It makes perfect sense.
Thanks to a terrific (and terrifying) performance by Jade Dornfeld as Alyce, Lee gets us to care about what happens here. Not about his lead, specifically, but about all the people like our heroine who have discovered that everything they were told they were entitled to will never be there's. Instead, they are destined to be destroyed by a machine bigger than mankind, a self-esteem stripping realization that cogs don't warrant consideration. In some ways, Alyce Kills is a revenge flick. Our lead wants her past back, and when she can't have it, she takes it out on the one person who tried to get her to reconnect with same. Similarly, anyone else who ends up in Alyce's deadly sights can expect a similar slash and hack response. With a tone of mood and a lot of cinematic style, Alyce Kills trumps our usually low expectations to become something of a minor masterpiece. Yes, it does drag toward the middle and makes us wait a bit too long before our gal goes gonzo, but when she finally does, it's all worth it.
Vivendi's treatment of this title is excellent. The image suffers a bit from the film's budgetary limitations, but for the most part, the 1.85:1 transfer maintains Lee's atmospheric approach. Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix does a masterful job of offering ambient suggestions for Alyce's slipping psychosis. The dialogue is easily discernible and the other sonic elements are handled with care. As for additional features, we are treated to a relatively routine Behind the Scenes featurette, an interview with the cast, and a trailer. The first two bonuses are pretty straight forward. In fact, a commentary featuring a few of the individuals present during these EPK experiences would have worked better. Still, we do get some insight into what Lee was working towards and the demands made on actress Jade Dornfeld.
Unlike many horror films that just throw on some gore and expect audiences to respond like some kind of perverted Pavlov's Dog, Alyce Kills earns our blood soaked respect. Highly Recommended for both its approach and its aftermath, this is a film that will haunt your dreams long after the last drop of vein juice has been spilled. Somewhere, in the vast trenches of our featureless world economy, a million Alyces are waiting to be unleashed. Heaven help those of us who become their targets. Or worse...their triggers.
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