The Haunting of Alice D Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by RLJ Entertainment
Written and directed by Jessica Sonneborn
2014, 85 minutes, Not Rated
Released on VOD and DVD on May 3rd, 2016
Juan Riedinger as Joe Davenport
Megan Hensley as Jenny
Aaron Massey as Michael
Kristina Page as Alice
Al Snow as Henchman
Kane Hodder as Sir Davenport
Sir Davenport (Kane Hodder) was the owner of a brothel at the turn of the 19th Century. The mansion where he ran his deceitful business was enormous. Held captive inside, Isabel and her younger sister, Alice, are slaves, sold by their uncle to pay a debt to Sir Davenport. Flash-forward to the present, Joe Davenport (Juan Riedinger) is the great-grandson of Sir Davenport and resides in the same home, where he embodies a watered down version of his great-granddaddy. Joe invites some of his childhood buddies, along with a few prostitutes, for a night of “anything-goes” fun—but something sinister is lurking in the house. The Haunting of Alice D is a tale of young adults in a sexually objectified atmosphere, juxtaposed sporadically with Kane Hodder’s star-power flashback scenes, giving too much unraveling to a clear as day motive.
The two main ingredients to the formula are the same when it comes to “haunting” subgenre flicks: a giant house and a supernatural presence. There is striking ghastly and gothic imagery, but The Haunting of Alice D fails in developing anything fresh, and gives no depth to really care about the main protagonist, Michael (Aaron Massey) and Jenny (Megan Hensley). By the time the audience will begin to care, they’ll already be on their cellphones doing something other than paying attention to the motion picture unraveling before them. For example, the first two friends wander off into a bedroom for some intimacy, and then killed off camera. This is all swell, but not one character ever makes mention of them again. If the characters don’t care about their friends, then why should the viewer?
Interestingly, the crew on this movie helps in supporting roles. Kristina Page, who is a producer on the film, portrays adult Alice in the flashbacks, while writer/director Jessica Sonneborn plays one of the prostitutes, Natasha. Costume designer, Deborah Venegas, make-up designer/artist, Ryan Michael Wojick, and another producer, Josh Hammond, have small roles as well. Knowing the cast and crew are working together to create art is admirable, and personifies the homegrown, organic nature of the film. This all worked, but there was one cast member who stuck out like a sore thumb and took me out of the movie for a bit.
WWE wrestler, Al Snow, has a cameo role next to Kane Hodder as his main henchman. He does nothing but add muscle and bring up old wrestling memories of his on-screen character swinging around a Styrofoam manikin head, yelling “what does everybody want? Head!” This could have been played by any old galoot, and should have been. As a wrestling fan, I can’t help but laugh to myself when I see Al Snow dragging a young girl to her ultimate demise, which the scene should not make me feel. Unfortunately, his character is a distraction and detracts from what could have been more powerful scenes.
There is one blunder I need to mention. The camera is underutilized, and maybe would’ve benefited from higher quality equipment (which may not be in the budget; understandable). But, in the final scene it is hard to tell what exactly happens (maybe it was the screener, I don’t know). Also, when the camera shakes, it diminishes the scenes and would make the overall film stronger if it was still in those instances. The bobble-head feeling is not constant, but does appear at times. Sloppy filmmaking can make or break a movie, depending on how it is used. Troma and Full Moon films benefit from the tight, shoe-string budgets and create these obscure pieces of art that many would never actually call art. Ah, the beaty of subjectivity.
The attempt here is admirable and there are definitely positives to The Haunting of Alice D. The jump-scares are corny but effective, and the appearance of Alice D’s ghost is pretty rad. The solid acting from Juan Riedinger is spot on as a misogynist prick whom I wanted to punch in the face. So Riedinger does a worthy job at making one cringe and hate the character, but most of the others are just plain vanilla... including the sorrowful Alice D. The final act supersedes the first two, so if you do watch, stay to the end. Regardless, the overall film is curious, and I encourage viewers to tune in if it crosses paths or the “haunting” subgenre is of interest.