Alucarda is an extremely stylish Mexican horror film made by the talented Juan Lopez Moctezuma in 1975, who also directed The Mansion of Madness and produced two of renowned director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s early film’s (Fando & Lis and El Topo).
Moctezuma’s Alucarda is an interesting mix of Ken Russell’s The Devils as well as The Exorcist and Stephen King’s Carrie which was published a year before Alucarda was released. Even though some of its possible influences may seem obvious, Alucarda is still a truly original movie that should appeal to horror fans who like unusual films.
The story begins when a pretty orphan named Justine (Susana Kamini) is sent to live in an eerie convent where sin obsessed ‘sisters’ dress in bloody shrouds that make them look like strange mummies. When a mysterious girl calling herself Alucarda (Tina Romero) suddenly appears in her room, Justine is immediately drawn to her. As the girls begin to bond, they find themselves lured deep into the woods by a strange hunchbacked gypsy with a dark secret. Soon after their romantic convent existence is turned upside down.
Possession, vampirism and devil worship (plus LOTS of screaming!) follow and when the girls begin to challenge the authority of the nuns and reigning priests at the convent, they’re forced to take part in a deadly exorcism to “cleanse their possessed souls.” Afterward, the convent has Hell to pay!
The film has plenty of blood and nudity to make gore hounds happy, but it’s far from exploitive in my opinion. Overall the movie is really lovely to look at and fans of Jodorowsky’s films will instantly recognize Moctezuma’s similar cinematic style. The director makes the most of his limited budget and creates extremely atmospheric sets that stand out next to his imaginative editing. The somewhat simple story is loaded with metaphors, but it’s never heavy handed and the dreamy surreal mood of the movie sticks with you long after it’s short 74 minute running time has ended.
Tina Romero is especially memorable as the passionate Alucarda but Susana Kamini also does a great job in her role as Justine. The talented Claudio Brook (The Mansions of Madness, The Assassination of Trotsky, The Devil’s Rain, etc.) is terrific in his duel roles as the hunchback gypsy and the sympathetic doctor. Brook is hard to recognize under the hunchback makeup, which makes him believable in both roles.
The DVD has been digitally transferred from the original negative so the picture and sound quality are both fantastic. The film looks sharp and the colors are rich. The actual soundtrack is a strange mix of curious melodies and odd ’70s synth music. It could be better, but it doesn’t take too much away from the enjoyment of the movie.
DVD Extras include a documentary about film maker Juan Lopez Moctezuma, a text bio/filmography/interview of the director, the original movie trailer and an insightful interview with director Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, etc.) who praises the films of Moctezuma and the performances of actor Claudio Brook. Guillermo del Toro’s passion for horror films is obvious and I thought his interview was lots of fun to watch.
Overall I think Alucarda is a terrific little film and the Mondo Macbro DVD release is well worth seeking out if you’re interested in unusual Mexican horror films.
(Originally written March 2003)