First time director Jessica Sonneborn (Rabid Love (2013)) delivers a haunting tale, with a light reference to gothic qualities presented with a family hiding secrets and house with memories, neither workout well for the cast. Now lately many horror tales have either a bloodbath slaughter fest and forget about the T&A, however herein the second will definitely satisfy those that seek that, and leave the gore-hounds whimpering. The tale also written by Jessica provides a slow burn story a few jolts with emphasis on strong character development at quicken pace and scamp 79-minutes as per the DVD from RLJ Entertainment.
In 1898, an indebt uncle sells his nieces Delilah (Sarah Nicklin) and Alice to a villainous brothel owner Davenport played by Kane Hodder, Alice is renamed “Alice D,” strangle coincidental to the title. Though her keeping her original first name goes against the standard rules and actions of both owners of property and pimps in general, they always rename to strip away the pride and individualism, either case it centers on whom the story focuses all the attention. Kane Hodder’s mere presence on the screen dominate the room even the lingerie covered actresses at the brothel no match for his control in the role or the scene. Already rendered hopeless after separation from her sister and indentured imprisonment, Alice meets a tragic end following a fateful final encounter with one of Davenport’s Henchman (Al Snow). The movie does a time jumps to present day, a full century later, the notorious brothel becomes a private residence under the ownership of Davenport’s great-grandson Joe (Juan Riedinger, known from Grave Encounters). Juan nails the role of Joe, showing the most self-indulging contempt for everyone, especially women, portraying a sleazing lustful troll, with an unsatisfying desire for all things illicit, and acts as a gangster kingpin, with the largest set of self-grandiose cullions. While supposedly at a strip club, though looks like the same location as the house, which might a con, for the girls auditioning for the role to entertainment Joe and his boys for an entire night of wild sexual abandonment. As similar to slasher flicks the characters fall into a normal pattern of characters a stoner, confused girl, the good guy (hero) and in this case a few sexy ladies. The ringleader of the call girls, Natasha (Sonneborn) embraces her sexuality fully with lusty desires, placing the pleasure as a commodity and sexual slavery as adverting economic hardships. Jenny (Megan Hensley also from Rabid Love) is an unwilling member of the party. Jenny has uncontrollable mountains of tuition bills trying to better her situation and feeling trapped needs a sugar daddy or in this case serving men’s carnal desires. Fret not, Jenny finds and teams up with the Michael (Aaron Massey) the good man, with a lengthy interaction of learning about each another and sharing his disgusts about the girls as paid sexual concubines. Strangely enough Adam (Michael Reed) brings along his freewheeling and fun girlfriend Krista (Eliza Swenson) to a paid for orgy party, and yet everyone aside the genuine connection of Mike and Jenny, enjoys the debauchery to the fullest. The confusion from the haunting of Alice D, why the ghost attacks everyone, and not just the men, using the girls, seems as overkill, not justify reasoning, again the explanation leaves the audience a tad confused, however continue to enjoy the body count and demonic possessions. In addition, her sister Delilah never reappears for the vengeance to tag-team the guests. A reliance on jump scares distracts, from the working drama and suspense, the quirky angles leave the suspense toss to the side, and providing a watered down version of a ghost house haunts by announcing them with rise of music signals. The first attack from the apparition appears quite bizarrely with all reaction shots to only the camera, and no other viewpoints, which results in terrorized faces, and also signals in speeding up the final act and leaving the viewers trying to solve the subplots and why the rushing, especially finish so far under the standard 90-minute mark.
This is not the first movie to have haunting of a brothel others that fitted into the category were The Nesting (1981) and Brothel (2008), but it carry a hidden religious overtone. Namely “you reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7) carrying over, the brothel only took, corrupting everyone especially the innocent and Joe does the same as his Senior Davenport, without cares for his reaping of immoral behaviors and sins.
Jessica’s first outing in the director’s chair creates powerful character interactions, and motivation to the developing drama, and shows the ability to create suspenseful sequences sadly not everything blends together with the frightening excellence. However, the haunted house tales of today struggle to shock the audience, especially with them adjusted to overstretched mouths of phantoms and paranormal misdeeds bombarding the viewers. If the film had a tad more editing and the scares might have achieve, however that likely would also reduce the minutes of the movie, hence it likely needed to start at the script, the rule one page equals a minute of screen time. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable outing with not many goofs or struggles for a sluggish finish.
Many times a new filmmaker, struggles with finding the balance, and some state that make the movie you want to see, and then there’s the school of make something that everyone likes and go for a bigger financial reward, both have pluses and minuses, but usually playing it close the middle of the road never really works properly. Sadly, that occurs to The Haunting of Alice D, along with her hidden agenda, clearly early on, that Joe, the intended target, lacks the shocks for the dedicated horror fans, except for those final 10-minutes prior to the credits rolling, still leaves one puzzling over it all.