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THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D

•             RELEASE DATE: Available May 3rd on DVD
•             WRITTEN BY: Jessica Sonneborn
•             DIRECTED BY: Jessica Sonneborn
•             STARRING: Kristina Page, Kane Hodder, Juan Riedinger, Al Snow

Alice D (Page), a prostitute sold into sexual slavery in 1898 to a sadistic brothel owner named Davenport (Hodder), exerts a murderous revenge against her captors before committing suicide. Flash forward a couple of years (give or take a hundred), and the brothel has fallen into the hands of Davenport’s descendant, Joe (Riedinger), a real douche-nozzle of a bloke that decides to hold one of those sex and drug parties all the kids are into these days. Well, before you can say “I bet Alice’s ghost is going to F these folks up six ways to Sunday”, Alice’s ghost F’s these folks up six ways to Sunday.

Comprised of all of your fright flick greatest (s)hits in terms of its characters (including but not limited to such unforgettable gems as “sex crazed stoner”, “misunderstood dude”, and that old timeless standard “hot dumb girl”), THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D isn’t going to set the world alight with the uniqueness of its protagonists, and the same can be said for the basics of its plot: Gang of goofs enter a haunted mansion looking for a good time and get murderized by supernatural shenanigans is a classic that never seems to go out of style (although the filmmakers did add a sleazy veneer of sexual servitude and near rape to the goings-on, so there’s that squick-tastic fun to be had).

I will praise the film, however, for being more akin to my beloved Gothic horror genre than the stalk n’ slash pic you would guess it to be, although it relies fairly heavily on jump-scares for most of its horror biz. Additionally, as cardboard cut-out as the characters are in regards to archetypes, there are some really great scenes where they are rather well developed, which can be rare in films of this ilk. I also enjoyed the stylistic choices employed in the flashback scenes as they truly brought to mind vintage photography (especially hand-tinted pieces) with their soft edges and muted color palette.

All of the above being said, first time die-rector Sonneborn delivers a serviceable terror tale, and I will definitely check out what she brings us next as I believe that as she goes on, she will build confidence and leave cliché behind (and to give credit to where it is due, she displays a great visual eye in a few sequences).

If you have to own every ghost flick out there, or just really dig on the sex trade of the 1800s, then by all means knock yourself out with ALICE D right away. For the rest of you, maybe give it a shot if you are really bored on a rainy afternoon. You won’t be bored, you won’t be thrilled, but overall, you’ll be entertained.

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THE CONDUIT

•             RELEASE DATE: Available Now on DVD
•             WRITTEN BY: Sixto Melendez
•             DIRECTED BY: Sixto Melendez
             STARRING: Wes Martinez, Monica Engesser , Maria Olsen

After a divorce leaves him a reelin’, Eddie (Martinez) returns to his hometown to try and get his act together. He then meets Amy (Engesser), a mysterious lil’ firecracker that helps him deal with his pain, mostly through a careful application of an s—t-ton of the sex. Seems like a pretty nice consolation prize for our boy Ed-o. Oh, but wait: Amy is a conduit, a vessel for an evil that she must spread via attraction. Oh great. Additionally, Eddie is afraid of the dark.

That’s the nuts and bolts of THE CONDUIT, a fright flick that admittedly is rather light on the fright. For the most part this film plays out as a slow building drama dealing with folks with plenty of emotional damage. Is that a bad thing? Not really; there’s nothing wrong with character building a depth of story, even in our beloved horror biz… but it’s a delicate balancing act, and THE CONDUIT doesn’t quite pull it off. There are a few kills here and there, and that supernatural undertone, but that comes ultra-late in the game, although the pay-off was handled well.

The bizarre thing about this film is that while it takes its sweet time getting where it’s going, there are some elements that feel unbelievably rushed. For instance, Eddie meets Amy, and before you can say “Let’s take it easy and see where this goes”, they are living together.

All in all, THE CONDUIT is a well-made (this was one of the better shot low budget films I’ve seen) and acted (especially by the two leads) picture, even if it does get a bit tedious in spots.

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