May 25, 2014
After watching Mexican horror auteur Juan López Moctezuma’s debut feature The Mansion of Madness (1973), I decided it was a better time than ever to watch the stylish blood and boobs celluloid shocker that the director is best known for, Alucarda (1977) aka Alucarda, la hija de las tinieblas aka Sisters of Satan aka Innocents from Hell aka Mark of the Devil Part 3: Innocence from Hell. A lurid and strangely luscious piece of Latina Lolita lesbo artsploitation supernatural horror that takes a more naughty and nubile approach to the nunsploitation subgenre, Alucarda is a great example as to why auteur Moctezuma is not exactly a household name in his homeland as a work that wallows in Catholic sacrilege in a fashion that makes William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) seem as tame as a Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic by comparison. Ostensibly loosely based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic 1872 Gothic vampire novella Carmilla, Moctezuma’s third feature is a Sapphic satanic possession piece with vague bloodsucker elements about two 15-year-old Catholic orphan girls who make a pact of lesbo love among themselves, as well as with the devil, after meeting a Svengali-like gypsy hunchback who looks like a large leprechaun. In fact, Moctezuma denied Alucarda was a vampire flick in a 1977 interview and claimed to pay tribute to Bram Stoker and not Le Fanu, stating: “No, even though the title is certainly a homage to Count Dracula. However the film draws on the vampire tradition and in a way the protagonist is a female vampire... but not in the sense of a blood drinker. In fact she has all the powers and attributes of the classic vampire. Except that she doesn't have to drink blood. I've given Alucarda all the vampiric powers Bram Stoker mentions that never get shown in films as well as the ones you'd expect.” Not featuring a single Mestizo actor and starring two Mediterranean nymphets in the lead roles, Alucarda ultimately seems more like a product of Spain or Italy than some sub-schlocky celluloid swill from south of the border. Apparently funded with money the director ‘stole’ from Alejandro Jodorowsky (Moctezuma produced Fando y Lis (1968) and El Topo (1970)), Alucarda is an audacious anti-Catholic diatribe that depicts priests as sexually repressed pervert dictators and nuns as sexless self-flagellating masochists who have a special affinity for pretty preteen girls. Indeed, if anything is demonically possessed and in dire need of an exorcism, it is Alucarda, as a work that mocks and eroticizes Catholic superstition in such a fiercely antagonistic fashion that even a non-Catholic like myself can appreciate its incendiary iconoclasm. Like a hardcore supernatural take on Joël Séria’s Don't Deliver Us from Evil (1971) aka Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal meets Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), albeit minus most of the campy elements, Moctezuma's work is one of only a handful of films that I can think of that makes heresy hot yet, unlike most nunsploitation flicks, also manages to be not too hopelessly hokey. For those with a fetish for blood, you also probably cannot do better than Alucarda, as a work featuring rather striking images of seductive young satanically-possessed señoritas soaked in sanguine fluids, which certainly looks more aesthetically pleasing on a woman than ‘spilled seeds.’ De Sade meets Mexican Gothic horror with a tinge of Huysmans and Bava, Alucarda is the film that was practically tailored for true Catholics like my quasi-psychotic Italian-Cuban childhood friend who used to get off to looking at Renaissance paintings of unclad sinners being tortured in hell.
A beautiful young woman (Tina Romero) gives birth to a baby in a cobweb-adorned building covered with gargoyle and demon statues and assumedly dies a couple minutes later after being attacked by some unseen evil entity. Flash forward 15 years later and the baby is now a pretty psychic vampire of sorts named Alucarda (also Tina Romero) who lives in the orphanage section of a Catholic convent that is presided over by a bunch of sexless nuns that look like bull dyke mummies due to their rather strange white cloaks. When a girl named Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives at the convent after her mother dies, Alucarda immediately becomes obsessed with the new young lady and asks her, “Do you want us to be sisters?,” and naturally the shy newcomer agrees. After telling Justine about how one of the sisters has committed suicide, Alucarda goes on a rant about how there can be happiness after death and the two are then approached by a mischievous Gypsy Hunchback (Claudio Brook), who takes them to a small gypsy camp. While Justine is warned by a gypsy woman to not, “believe such a creature. He’ll only tell you lies” in regard the rather grotesque looking Hunchback, Alucarda takes an instantly likely to the deformed degenerate, who gives her a strange dagger, at least until he says, “I see clearly. Your past and future, your dreams. You’ve come from the dew in the forest and there they will be waiting for you. Strange creatures they are, and you must take care. If it obsesses the young lady, here I am and here is my box of charms. If she wishes I will make her free from such a dream…then if the dream comes true, I shall be expecting her,” thus provoking the two girls to runaway in fear. After escaping the Hunchback, the girls end up accidentally discovering a mysterious and seemingly abandoned ancient building with rather sinister architecture which also happens to be the same building where Alucarda was born and her mother died. Upon entering the strange and ominous building, Alucarda becomes extremely excited and tells Justine, “I live in you. Would you die for me? I love you so. I have never been in love with anyone. And never shall. Unless it’s with you.” Alucarda also confesses that she is jealous and how she wants Justine to “love her to death,” so the two youthful lesbian comrades agree to make a blood pact using the knife that was given to them by the Gypsy Hunchback.
Unfortunately, Alucarda and Justine's blood pact is cut short when they open a crypt and become horrified with the decomposed corpse they discover inside. Somehow, the whole experience leaves Justine sick and bedridden, especially after watching a church sermon given by an egomaniacal priest named Father Lázaro (David Silva). While recuperating in bed, Justine is visited by Alucarda, who describes with great excitement how voices talked to her from the woods just like the Gypsy Hunchback said they would and then states in a trance-like state, “Only you and me. Only you and me Justine. We will make them pay. Bit by bit. For all they have taken away from us. Lucifer. Satan! Lucifer!” After ripping a cross necklace from Justine’s neck, Alucarda declares, “we shall make them pay” (in regard to the nuns and priest, who she believes has caused Justine’s sickness) and then the Gypsy Hunchback somehow magically appears out of nowhere, strips the girls of their clothing, and makes them more or less make a pact with the almighty Great Satan. While making the pact, the two girls lick blood from one another’s lips and tits and Baphomet even makes an appearance, thus somehow transporting the two proto-Goth gals to a lesbian witch orgy. Meanwhile, a loving nun named Sister Angélica (Tina French) pleads to god to save Justine from the devil, which causes the nun to levitate and her face to severely hemorrhage. Now possessed by the devil, Justine later declares in her bible class, “God with his lack of knowledge does not understand the truth, and opposes it with false thoughts and prayers” and the two friends proceeds to chant: “Satan, Satan, Satan, Our lord and master. I acknowledge thee as my God and Prince. I promise to serve and obey thee as long as I shall live. I renounce the other God and all the saints.”
Needless to say, Justine does not live long as Father Lázaro forces her to an endure a brutal S&M-like exorcism that involves cutting her up naked body (they strip her to prove that she has the ‘mark of the beast’) after the padre comes to the conclusion that the girls are victims of the devil’s evil messenger, a heliophobic demon—a sixth category devil who hates light. Indeed, after Alucarda scares the Priest by telling him that she worships life and he worships death, Father Lázaro forces all the nuns to get half-naked and engage in sadomasochistic flagellation and decide an exorcism is the only way to rid their church of the satanic conspiracy. When a doctor named Dr. Oszek (Claudio Brook) walks in on the exorcism and sees Justine’s naked corpse, he becomes enraged and declares, “the most shameful thing I have ever been a witness to. This isn’t the 15th century, I thought that reason replaced superstition. This is not an act of faith…this is the most primitive expression of ignorance I have ever seen. You… You…have just killed Justine.” After damning the priest and nuns, Dr. Oszek takes Alucarda with him and introduces her to his blind teenage daughter Daniela (Lili Gazara), not realizing that the girl he has exposed to his progeny is demonically possessed. Naturally, being a little lesbo Lolita, Alucarda takes an instant liking to Daniela and makes her promise to stay with her, which she does. Meanwhile, back at the convent, Justine’s corpse somehow disappears and a nun is burnt alive, with her corpse later rising from the dead and spitting out blood in a rather rude fashion. Naturally, a priest decides to decapitate the demonic zombie nun. Eventually, Sister Angélica discovers Justine’s naked undead body inside of a coffin full of blood. While Sister Angélica manages to stop zombie-vampire Justine from killing her at first, Dr. Oszek throws holy water on the undead she-bitch, thus provoking her to bite the sister’s throat, which naturally kills the holy woman of god. In the end, demonically possessed Alucarda becomes hysterically homicidal and begins killing countless priests, nuns, and monks with flames summoned from hell, though she eventually drops permanently dead after staring at a giant burning crucifix. Naturally, Dr. Oszek and his daughter Daniela escape relatively unscathed.
In terms of films about the demonic possession of Latina Lolitas, you will certainly be hard-pressed to find one better than Alucarda. In fact, the film is certainly cream of the celluloid crop when it comes to nunsploitation, exorcism films, and Mexican horror cinema as well, though not that I am any sort of connoisseur when it comes to these typically sleazy and sickeningly superficial types of films. I can say, however, that as a hopeless cynical who lacks a superstitious mind, I found Alucarda to be exceedingly effective, as the sort of film that I expected The Exorcist to be but was not. Indeed, featuring nuns that dress like mummies and bleed profusely out of their naughty bits, a melancholy sister who keeps her face about a foot or two away from a dead teenage girl’s bare postmortem bush, and a towering Baphomet randomly appearing during a satanic Sapphic blood pact between two titillating 15-year-old girls, Alucarda is a hard film to top in terms of salacious supernatural horror, especially considering the film manages to depict all these typically distasteful things in a shockingly cultivated way. Apparently, a sequel entitled Alucarda Rises From The Tomb was in the works, but director Juan López Moctezuma unfortunately died before he could ever realize it. Personally, I am one of those rare people that actually prefers the director’s first feature The Mansion of Madness to Alucarda, but that probably largely has to do with the fact that I was not brought up Catholic and I prefer psychedelic arthouse aesthetics and wayward dark humor to most supernatural horror films. Indeed, Alucarda features none of the Jodorowsky-esque surrealism and Theatre of Cruelty-like spastic acting that made The Mansion of Madness so memorable. Indeed, I cannot say that the idea of demonic possession is something that scares me, but then again maybe it is because I have met far too many moronic, ugly, and morally repugnant people to be able to be horrified at the sight of a nubile naked girl covered in vital fluids declaring her love for the fallen angel Lucifer. For those that cannot stand hysterical young women incessantly screaming as if suffering from a deadly orgasm, as well has hyper histrionic acting, Alucarda may seem like a grating slice of celluloid hell. A hostilely heretical work where madness, eroticism, violence, and spirituality become indistinguishable, Alucarda is ultimately an innately iconoclastic work that relentlessly mocks the irrationality of the Catholic Chuch yet at the same time criticizes the hyper rational man of science, thus making for a film that is eclectically misanthropic, albeit in a fairly cryptic fashion that is actually quite admirable. Indeed, as someone who typically loathes big fat whiny atheist humanists more than priests and nuns, I appreciated the fact that the doctor character featured in the film was also portrayed as a self-righteous fool of sorts, but I digress and will close by saying that Alucarda is easily the most elegantly visceral and hatefully violent yet erotically-charged lesbian quasi-vampire flick I have ever seen and that Jess Franco and Jean Rollin probably could have learned a lot had they taken the opportunity to watch it.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:48 PM
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