Written and directed by: Juan López Moctezuma
Produced by: Max Guefen, Eduardo Moreno and Juan López Moctezuma
Reviewed by: Brett H.
Mexican horror has never been a staple in my personal viewing. Pretty much the only Mexican horror films I'd ever been exposed to were Night of the Bloody Apes and public domain copies of Boris Karloff's last features. Somewhere along the way, Mondo Macabro began releasing the "best" independent horror movies to come out of Mexico, and giving the films very generous treatment with features and quality transfers on DVD. Alucarda intrigued me the most. The rich gothic tones combined with Satanism and a slight dash of vampire cliché, not to mention the buckets of blood and nudity promised on the cover art made me seek this one out above all others. But was it a worthwhile journey?
The film begins with a woman giving birth to a child and giving the infant, Alucarda, away to a gypsy as she can't care for it. Years pass and a young lady named Justine (Susana Kamini) has just lost her parents and been placed in an orphanage/covenant that is being run with very strict religious guidelines. In her room, she meets a mysterious woman named Alucarda (Tina Romero) who quickly becomes infatuated with her. They roam the lush countryside together playfully before meeting up with a gypsy (the aforementioned one, albeit much older?) who along with Alucarda leads Justine into the ways of the occult as the two become one in a completely naked ceremony where they participate in the act of drinking one another's blood and selling their souls.
Justine and her new eternal friend begin causing havoc at the orphanage, interrupting mass with blasphemous statements hailing their dark Lord and eventually the priest, Father Lazaro (David Silva) deems them possessed by Satan and demands an exorcism takes place. Justine dies during the rite and Alucarda is saved by a doctor, who deems their practices as something done in the 15th century, not in the ever so hip mid-1800s. He takes Alucarda to his house so she wouldn't suffer the same fate. And now after about an hour in, the movie really picks up. A nun is found burned apparently to death, only to come back possessed and be viciously decapitated by Father Lazaro, which is apparently a much more efficient way to perform an exorcism.
Father Lazaro, the doctor and the entire covenant go looking for Justine's body and she turns up in the very same gothic dwelling that Alucarda had been born in, not to mention had been visited by the two on their playful days roaming the countryside. Not only is she found there, she is found in a blood-filled coffin and comes out slashing and clawing very appropriately, like a woman possessed. After that little encounter, the crew goes on the hunt for Alucarda and in the process nuns are set ablaze, buildings crumble and the doctor does his best Max von Sydow impression. The scene isn't quite as effective as the famous shot that appears on the wonderful theatrical poster for The Exorcist, but it's pretty good nonetheless.
Alucarda isn't a great movie, but it's by no means bad or even mediocre. After the first hour, the film really kicks it into high gear and the blood really starts gushing and it proves to be super entertaining. I don't have to say that the nudity kicks in exclusively at that time because the director kindly gives his audience no less than three full frontal shots in the first twenty or so minutes along with quite a few at the ending which surely will be a crowd pleaser. The film has the usual struggle of science vs. religion where the nutty priest who is thought to be crazy turns out to be right and has to save the girls from Satan himself. Sort of. He doesn't seem to be the type to pull a Father Karras and throw himself out of a window to save the young girl.
The characters are passable, but Justine's actions in particular seem out of place. She seems very apprehensive about most anything and somehow she's involved in selling her soul to Satan, all the while having her breast cut up for her blood to be drunk at the drop of a dime. Then there's the standard bloody lipped lesbian kiss, to which no complaints will be made except the fact that she isn't the type of the person to be involved in such activities. Not only that, but there isn't any real convincing done by Alucarda to get her to participate as she just sort of goes along with it. But, hey, this is a low budget, independent horror film and the plot has to advance somehow, right? To call the expulsion of the Beast in this film an exorcism would be misleading as the rite involves not much more than a few words and even includes prodding Justine to draw blood, which seems like something the cult would be doing and not so much the church. There is a very, very cool scene in which a nun prays for Justine's safety while she is participating in an orgy (just how she knows this is going on, I have no idea). As a result, one of the cult member's necks literally explodes in the middle of it and the nun's face is drenched by the blood as she ends her prayer. It's a very nice touch, indeed.
Those looking for a good satanic cult film would be advised in checking this out as all the satanic staples, right down to the goat masked orgies and lesbianism that is thankfully in most films in the sub-genre, are all present here. The score isn't the best out there, but there's a couple pieces of music that truly accompany the scene perfectly, mainly during Alucarda's introduction. The film itself looks decent on the Mondo Macabro DVD, surely much better than the VHS copies that have been kicking around for 20 years. It's by no means great and really looks much like a videotape cleaned up. Some parts are worse than others, which surely has to do with inferior source materials, but certainly Mondo Macabro did all they could. Also included is a short documentary and an interview with Guillermo del Toro, both regarding director Juan López Moctezuma. Rounding things out is a trailer that spoils most of the film's juicier bits. In the end, Alucarda manages to raise some major, major hell! Buy it!
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