Shriekfest 2014 Preview – Creating genuine chills in low budget independent films is a tough challenge and one that many filmmakers have struggled to successfully overcome. With Alice D however, writer and director Jessica Sonneborn has done just that through clever use of traditional horror imagery and simple but engagingly unsettling effects. In 1890 the Davenport mansion is in use as a house of ill-repute, with the brutal owner (horror legend Kane Hodder) ruling through a blend of violence and intimidation.
When Alice (Kristina Page), a young woman virtually imprisoned at the house, reaches the end of her tether she takes murderous revenge on her captors before tragically ending her own brief and tortured life. Present day and the latest Davenport descendant Joe (Juan Riedinger) is hosting a party for his closest friends and has laid on some prostitutes for their entertainment. When strange, inexplicable things begin to happen, the myth of Alice’s ghost suddenly proves to be very real.
It is necessary to point out that there are some issues with Alice D. Some of the dialogue is a little unwieldy, with the cast struggling to deliver occasional lines with any conviction. Elements of the plot are a little contrived in the best (and worst) tradition of genre films with people splitting up or heading off to different rooms just to advance the story. The thing is, none of this actually matters.
Sonneborn has delivered a film that harnesses a steadily developing sense of unease through subtle direction and patient pacing, and builds towards a gruesome crescendo that will send cold chills down even the hardiest of spines. There is a feeling of having seen much of what takes place before; how original can some stories actually be? There is a haunted house, a malevolent ghost and group of twenty-something’s that by the end you’ll probably be quite happy to see receive their comeuppance.
It is the way it is presented though and with a reverence for the genre from everyone involved Alice D references films from the canon such as The Woman In Black and early Hammer productions with a well earned integrity.
Alice D is a hugely impressive film that takes great pride in its independent status. Assembling a cast with a wealth of experience in the genre, and drawing on her own extensive back catalogue, Sonneborn has proven with her debut feature that she is a filmmaker of real talent. This may not be a perfect film, but it is a hell of a way to start. Alice D is the opening film at Shriekfest 2014 and is screening at 7.00pm on Friday 3rd October