The 70's gave us a lot of Satanic movies, such as The Devil's Rain (1975), Beyond the Door (1974), and of course, the best-known of them all, The Exorcist (1973). A while back I discovered another Mephistolic movie from that era, titled Alucarda (1975). The DVD cover calls it a 'legendary lost film', and I'd have to agree with that description. Directed by Juan Lopez Moctezuma, this Mexican-made film deals with the same horror/exploitation Satanic themes that the above-mentioned movies do, but it's Moctezuma's presentation that puts it in a different league than the drive-in fun of The Devil's Rain, or the slick Hollywood scares of The Exorcist. In the included mini-documentary, Moctezuma's work is called 'Artsploitation', which I think is a dead-on assessment of Alucarda.
The film tells the tale of Alucarda ( Tina Romero), who is born in a strange crypt that seems haunted by an evil presence. Her mother (also played by Tina Romero) gives her to an old woman who takes her away. Flash forward several years, and we see a young girl named Justine( Susana Kamini) going to a convent to live, as her parents have both died. Justine meets Alucarda, now also a young girl. Alucarda forms a swift and somewhat creepy bond with Justine immediately. All is not to be picnics and sleepovers with the two girls, however, as their dark fate leads them to Devil worship, religious fanatacism, black magic, vampirism, torture, and a fiery confrontation.
As you can probably tell from the DVD cover art and the brief description above, Escape From Witch Mountain this most assuredly ain't. Being a 70's horror film, artistic pretensions aside, there's blood, nudity, violence, screaming, and potentially blasphemous goings-on aplenty here. However, Moctezuma's vison is what sets Alucarda apart from other such films. Like many other horror films I like, this film has a dream-like quality to it. Besides the supernatural happenings, the main element of the film that makes it sort of surreal is the sets. The crypt that Alucarda was born at , that the two girls later discover, is a good example of this. It's a large building, shrouded in fog and haze, its stone walls draped in yards of cloth. The convent/church where the girls live is another prime example. Its stone walls and cave-like feel give it an element of eerieness , maybe moreso than the crypt, especially the grotto-like room that the services are held at, where dozens of crucified Jesuses( Jesi?) seem to be coming out of the walls. The nuns also look like something out of a fever dream-their habits look more like bloody bandages than the traditional black-and-white garb we're used to seeing. Alucarda herself, somewhat tellingly, is the only one dressed in black.The scene where the sinister Devil-worshipping gypsy appears to the girls , and the ritual in the woods are also weird and surreal. Even the film's opening credits, showing a flickering picture of a devil-winged woman as the credits roll over a mellow piece of organ music, seem unusual and out of the ordinary.
There's also scenes of relgious surrealism, too. In one scene a nun has a rapturous moment, and in another, perhaps showing the other side of religion's coin, the head priest gives a sermon about sinning and Hell that greatly upsets the young girls in attendance. Also in the same vein we see the same priest and some nuns scourging themselves bloody. As it turns out, though, the priest is right...Hell does come into their midst, in a very literal way.
You don't have to be a detective to figure out our protagonist's name is Dracula backwards. There's another brief reference to the Stoker novel ( a name on a coffin in the crypt is the same as a character from Dracula), and a character does become a vampire later in the proceedings, but that's the only tenuous relation to Dracula . The main monster in this film is young Alucarda, who seems destined for evil...and she does it well.
I really like Alucarda. I had read about it, and , in my pre-Netflix stage of life, didn't think I'd find it at the usual rental places, so, I bought a copy . It sounded like a film I'd like, and lucky me, I was correct ( otherwise I'd have been out $20). The film's style and feel is great. It has the look of a 70's Eurohorror film( though Mexico isn't in Europe), with great locations and sets, bright red blood, and the surreal stylings just add to the uniqueness of Moctezuma's film.
If 70's style surrealistic horror with religious overtones appeals to you, give Alucarda a spin in the DVD player. It'll be a nice change of pace from the usual stuff...although maybe 'nice' isn't exactly the word I should be using. I give it the official Beast's Seal of Approval...check it out.