I was feeling a bit cocky after yesterday’s win and took another spin. I feel like I’ve achieved some weird form of equilibrium with this experiment: I win on Tuesday, lose yesterday, and break even today… the end sum… zero. To be honest, although it all adds up to nothing, I feel like a winner…, let’s be honest, the majority of horror movies aren’t great… therefore, to win as much as I lose takes some amount of luck.
My reaction to Alyce Kills was unique… and that’s saying something considering how many movies I’ve watched over the last couple of months. I’ve never loved and loathed a movie in such equal parts before. That’s not entirely accurate. There are plenty of movies I’ve watched over the last month or so that had just as much going for them as going against. What is different here is that if you were to chop this movie into thirds, the first segment was perfectly acceptable, the second was absolutely abysmal, and the last was completely wonderful. I’ve never had this disjointed of a viewing experience. If you were to read over the notes I took while watching (which, are naturally in chronological order) you would think I accidentally watched two halves of two different movies. This makes reviewing this film extremely difficult… it also makes my overall judgement of this film particularly tricky. Over the past hour, I’ve oscillated back and forth more times than the fan in our bedroom does over a week… I keep bouncing between advising you to run away from this film (as fast as you can) on one end, and telling you that you should turn off all possible sources of millennial interruption and actually (I mean really, truly, honestly) watch this movie on the other. This nausea caused by this flip-flopping has finally started to abate and I think I’ve settled into a compromise… but more on that later.
Before we get into the nitty gritty let me give you the basic plot of the film. Alyce is a twenty-something woman working a dead-end job… one night she reconnects with an old friend and has a night out on the town… copious amounts of alcohol and a bit of ecstasy are consumed by both… later the same evening both women end up on the roof of Alyce’s apartment complex… Carroll (the friend) is either accidently pushed off the ledge of the roof by Alyce or she falls on her own accord… either way, what results is a slow (extremely slow… like glacier slow) decent into madness for Alyce. Let’s start with the bad and then end with the good, much in the same way the movie does. The first two-thirds of this movie is abysmal. First, there is a problem of likeability. What I mean by this is that I’m not rooting for anyone in this film. At times, it felt like an episode of Girls, the only difference is that these horrible human beings kill each other… so, I guess what I’m saying, is that at times, it felt like a better version of Girls. The lesson I took away from the majority of this film (and Girls (and yes, I understand that the show probably wasn’t meant for me)) was that the most horrific thing in life is the friendship between women in their twenties. In this way I felt some connection between this movie and Starry Eyes, which, in my opinion, was the worst part of the later (though my friend Matt would say that the worst part of Starry Eyes is that it exists (well, I guess there’s a reason even the best movie can’t achieve a perfect 100% on rotten tomatoes…)).
The first thirty minutes or so of this movie move along in a rather nice pace. While not exactly interesting or engaging it is clearly setting up the plot (and this is true of the vast majority of horror movies, so I don’t really hold it against the filmmaker (writer and director Jay Lee)). However, once Alyce (possibly) pushes her friend off the roof this movie grinds to a halt. For the next forty minutes or so there is no semblance of a plot. I know I used the phrase “decent into madness” above but this is really only inferred from the climax of this movie… this must be what’s happening during the segment. In reality, this adds up to her sitting in her apartment staring at walls, going to a drug dealer’s den to get more drugs (while doing extremely degrading things), doing the drugs, and staring at more walls. A quick side note, I found the scenes in the drug dealer’s den extremely disturbing… and not the fun horror-movie type of disturbing… no, like watching-the-evening-news type of disturbing. Combine this with the causal approach to violence towards women this movie takes (in nearly all forms… verbal, physical, sexual) and I was done… I absolutely, completely hated this movie… that clean and completely fulfilling type of hate. I kept hitting pause so I could see how much time was left… I hadn’t done that with any other films up to this point… it had nearly broken me.
That’s when the movie becomes something completely different… I am sure that’s what the filmmaker was going for… once Alyce “snaps” the tone of the movie abruptly changes. It suddenly goes from this depressing and morose film into a fun (almost weirdly light) darkly comedic horror movie. This is where the movie soars… I’ve never had so much fun watching a person try to dispose of a dead body (okay… that might come across wrong… I just want to make it clear, I’ve never seen the disposal of a corpse in real life (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it)). During these scenes I also felt a connection with the wonderfully disturbing Japanese horror movie Audition (if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth checking out (the sound the Asami makes while playing with the needles will always play a prominent role in my nightmares)). I can’t really put by finger on what it is… but there’s something there.
In the end, while I absolutely adored the last twenty minutes, the first hour-and-ten are so unbearable that I cannot, in all good conscience, recommend this film. What I can say is that if you have some work to do, it may be worth putting the film on in the background and just focusing in when the good stuff starts (you’ll know it when you see it)… you really won’t miss anything in terms of plot.