Alucarda (1977)

They gave their souls to Hell... but the Devil wanted MORE!
Posted on by

Alucarda - They gave their souls to Hell... but the Devil wanted MORE!

Convents: they're all well and good, but a functional convent rarely makes for an entertaining movie. Luckily for us, we have an entire genre based on what happens when good nuns - or their young charges - go bad, and demented Mexican movie Alucarda (Sisters of Satan) must rank amongst the most grisly, camp and compelling takes on the theme. Here, if a scene can be improved by extra nudity, Satanism or explosions - or all three at once - then you can depend on seeing it, thanks to the sterling efforts of director Juan López Moctezuma. There are no half measures here, and it's awesome.

Our story beings in a cross between a shed and a Halloween display, as a young woman - with an unusual midwife at her side - gives birth. She names the child Alucarda, and begs her attendant to take her to the convent: Satan, apparently, wants the child's soul! Alucarda (Tina Romero - no relation) grows up safely there. When the orphaned Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives, also to live within the convent walls, the girls quickly become close friends. However, a chance encounter with a strange, hairy man in the woods (hey, we've all been there) sets them on a path to Satan. Opening the grave they find in Alucarda's birthplace releases something evil. Between the sinister gypsy and this, the girls are thrown into a world of possession, orgies, madness, blasphemy, sudden nudity and lots of hysterical shrieking.

Everything, absolutely everything in this film is overblown lunacy: why have one line of dialogue or one gesture if you can have nine or ten? From the comedic man over-enthusiastically flogging his horse as Justine is delivered to the convent, and in every scene ever after, the film layers on the excess, never understating anything and definitively wringing every exploitation motif dry to good effect. That's not to say this is a hokey film, though: a lot of work has gone into how it looks and sounds. The interiors reminded me a lot of Fellini's Satyricon (1969), a film well within the art-house genre and not one usually associated with this type of genre cinema, but the sets and costumes are similar and just as good. The nuns' outfits here are very distinctive too, though I can't think of any precedent for them; they look somewhere between Clive Barker's Cenobites (the name of which derives from a real monastic order, funnily enough) and Universal Studios' early horror movie takes on mummies - albeit mummies who seem to be missing the maxi-pads they so obviously need...

The script covers all bases, from platitudes about love and random, humorous non sequiturs to enthusiastic imprecations to Old Nick (who makes a brief cameo appearance, by the way). That's one of the things you notice about horror/exploitation cinema of this type from Catholic countries; given the chance to tear into the Church, they really go to town. Imagining ritual Satanism really gets filmmakers going, as well. There's a dash of catharsis in it, and in Alucarda that is underlined by how nearly all the committed Christians in the film behave. They're at least as dangerous as the devil-worshippers, only more hypocritical. As Alucarda tells her confessor, 'I worship life; you worship death'; camp film or not, tell me there's not a sense of revelling in being allowed to throw lines like that around. Tina Romero does a great job with this role, too: like all good exploitation actresses she plays it utterly straight, leaving the audience to find any humour or irony for themselves, and her intense histrionics are fun. When she plays evil, I believe her!

Lurid, awash with bright red blood, black magic and writhing nuns, this is one of the best releases on the Mondo Macabro label and any self-respecting cult film fan should give this a look. A review on IMDb called this boring: I don't feel I'm on the same planet as that reviewer. There's never a dull minute here.
This review was posted on by

Alucarda: Movie Information

Alucarda: Related Images

Alucarda: External Links