Alucarda… I’ve had too few conversations about Alucarda… and by this I mean I’ve had no conversations about Alucarda because no one I’ve met has seen it. Which is a terrible thing, because this is a fantastic, phantasmagoric, colour-drenched masterpiece of supernatural horror.
Born amid the wrack and ruin of a de-sanctified church and raised by nuns in a Mexican convent, Alucarda’s eponymous anti-heroine seems destined for great and terrible things. She is also unique in a genre that pigeonholes women as virginal survivors or sluttish victims of fate. Alucarda is fate, the embodiment of unholy nature sprouting up in spite of all of nurture’s cloying, sanctimonious impediments. In effect she’s something like a Satanic Carrie, though the root of her power lies not so much in suppressed rage as it does in an intrinsic desire for carnage. Take Ring’s Sadako, comb back her hair, give her a poetic frame of mind and the ability to make her enemies spontaneously combust by screaming demonic invectives at them, and you have Alucarda.
Our black-clad and doll-faced protagonist (Tina Romero) has grown up to be the lovable oddball of the convent-cum-orphanage. She’s an eccentric, but a harmless one… Until the arrival of Justine (Susana Kamini), with whom she forms an immediate rapport. Their close friendship is transformed into a pact altogether more sinister when they encounter a goatish, hunchbacked gypsy (Claudio Brook) who may well be the devil…
Though all of Alucarda’s players perform superlatively (Claudio Brook is particularly good), it is from start to finish Tina Romero’s film. Her Alucarda is a wonderfully eerie creation, at once utterly innocent and inextricably evil, a silver-tongued Goth-prototype with a child’s vivacity and a sophist’s voice. An ingénue with all the powers of Hell at her disposal, she might be the victim of dark forces, but she’s undeniably a champion for them too. Her physicality is both terrifying and hypnotic, at times it’s difficult to tell where her hysteria ends and her rapture begins.
The world in which Alucarda exists (and was born to destroy) is a beautiful one, rendered in lush Technicolor, decked with blood-hued draperies and flesh-textured walls and peopled by nuns whose flounced habits look a lot like gore-stained bandages. Tony Guefen’s electronic score helps create a dreamy ambiance that lulls the viewer into repose… until the inevitable explosions of Satanic frenzy. Director Juan L. Moctezuma takes to said explosions in much the same spirit that Ken Russell took to his ungodly orgies in The Devils, holding little back and enriching each fresh horror with an emotional intensity that only a full complement of Catholics could bring to the screen. Just as the crushing toll of ritualized guilt is etched into every wrought and tear-streaked face, the soaring ecstasy of sexual abandon is writ large in every naked, contorted body.
Now, please, watch Alucarda!
And then we can talk about it…