Verdict: 3 / 5
Alyce (Jade Dornfeld) is a young but frustrated urbanite who loathes her boss and her dead-end job. Her only consolation is her best friend Carroll (Feldman). Tragedy strikes when Alyce accidently pushes Carroll off the roof of her apartment building during a drug and alcohol binge. Alyce hides her involvement in the incident but the guilt of not owning up slowly destabilizes her fragile mental state. A drug induced psychosis takes over leading her to shed her old persona, embrace chaos and fall down a rabbit hole into her own fantasy land of blood and gore.
‘Alyce’ is the most twisted and demented ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adaptation out there. The film is loosely based on the classic tale. It employs the major themes in the book but reconfigures the overall story into a less fantastical, darker, low-budget horror flick. Honestly, ‘Alyce’ is one of those rare B-movies that are fairly entertaining and have just enough artistic merit to grab your attention. The first forty minutes of the film will not raise hopes of watching a good movie though. It lacks proper context, pacing, has inane dialogue and poor character development. The story meanders aimlessly for a while with too many uncomfortable close-up shots. Things start to become interesting after the rooftop incident when Alyce’s radical transformation takes place. She morphs from a quiet, cold and constrained character into a ruthless psychopath, partially via copious amounts of narcotics but mainly because she no longer wishes to be controlled and dominated by modern society’s expectations and limitations. She embraces violence, manipulation and ruthlessness, meting out the same punishment on unsavory individuals that institutions, people, companies and governments inflict on the world. She breaks free from all the chains imposed on her and becomes a metaphor for the freedom craved and evil perpetuated by modern societies and its various factions of good and evil.
The title character’s jump from victim to psychopath is clumsy and poorly navigated within the broader narrative; luckily Jade Dornfeld’s portrayal of Alyce is so strong that we swallow any narrative defects as she balances castrated and psychotic Alyce perfectly. With no disrespect, the B-movie Oscar for best supporting actor has to go to Eddie Rouse for his performance as the drug peddling Mad Hatter Rex. Eddie is solid gold in this role, giving a sterling portrayal as a criminal low life ready to rise to the top of the food chain once the house of cards society is inhabiting comes crashing down. The scene that really captivates and convinces you of the merits of the film definitely has to be Rex and Alyce’s moral debate on right and wrong. Rex gives a flawed but majestic exposition on modern society’s hypocrisy, fake bourgeois existence and the regular folks’ blind acceptance of the elite’s manipulation.
The last half hour of the film sees a total change in tone and feel. The film goes into overdrive with blood and gore as its centre fold. It becomes comical in its excessiveness and dilutes itself into a straightforward slasher flick, that when compared to Alyce will make Jason seem as violent as the Dalai Lama. It is compelling despite the gore and you wonder what extremities Alyce will go to and how it will all end for her.
I disrespected this film; its low-budget quality turned me off initially and the first half of the movie is hardly stellar but it pulls itself together somehow. Some may find the film too graphic and its cross pollinated style should alienate many but ‘Alyce’ is a memorable film that should not be under-rated.