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A few weeks back, I was searching for rare
horror titles at Los Angeles’ Amoeba Music (for those of you who have
never been there, I highly recommend a visit; it’s a treasure trove of rare and
unusual cult films). On this particular trip, I happened upon ALUCARDA. How had
I missed this title? I’m a sucker for nunsploitation and a die-hard fan of
weird ’60s and ’70s psychedelia. So ALUCARDA (a.k.a. SISTERS OF SATAN) was
pretty much a mental and visual gift.
Straight outta 1975, ALUCARDA was directed by Juan López
Moctezuma, who cut his surreal fangs working with the god of trippy, Alejandro
Jodorowsky, on EL TOPO. Part of the new wave of Mexican filmmakers, Moctezuma
directed THE MANSION OF MADNESS in 1973 before resurrecting Satan and killing
some nuns in ALUCARDA. Set in a Catholic convent for orphan girls, the film
sees the strange teen Alucarda befriending the recently orphaned Justine. Their
relationship quickly gets weird…like, “Oops, we accidentally had a blood
orgy” weird. Somewhere among the oaths of devoted friendship, breast-slicing
and heavy petting, the two gals end up pledging allegiance to Beelzebub. Then
everything gets batshit crazy!
The girls develop mental powers and possibly become
possessed. So they do the only natural thing, and start taking down nuns and
orphans while chanting their love for the dark lord. The nuns fight
back and host a grand exorcism, which (not unlike the previous satanic blood
orgy) includes copious amounts of nudity, gore and ecstatic dry-humping amidst
the festivities. Who will prevail, our satanic teens or the repressed nuns…and
how many will get naked and bloody in this process?
Beyond the ultrashocking themes in ALUCARDA, I have
to give some credit to the costumer on this one. Alucarda is clad in all
black, like a colonial My Chemical Romance groupie, though it works in
comparison to the other orphans in their lusciously colored garb. But
the overwhelming applause should go to the nuns’ outfits. These ladies of the
Lord are not clad in the typical regalia—no, no. These nuns are decked out in
dingy white gauzy layers that have been stained with blood long before the
spillage is ever introduced on screen. I spent the first part of the movie
confused as to why our holy rollers were already bloody, but the
effect was disturbing as hell. It later became apparent that
their grue-soaked garments are due to excessive self-flagellation, beating
themselves with hooked whips as a way of demonstrating their piety to the big
The effect of these befouled costumes is remarkable.
Disturbing and grotesque, the nuns almost look like mummies or (and pardon my
crudeness here) large walking tampons. And as all my male readers cringe and
get sick to their stomachs—yes! That’s exactly the same feeling you’ll get
watching these women on screen.
It’s no surprise that this film has often been compared to
Ken Russell’s THE DEVILS. Both are trippy, visceral, filled with controversial
material and portray religion as a confused and often blind faith of the weak.
Additionally, it’s no coincidence they were both released around the same time,
along with our own Stateside religious shocker THE EXORCIST. This was a time of
change within religion and post-war examination of faith, and also a time
when controversy and exploitation sold films…so why not maim some nuns?
Shot entirely with an English-speaking cast, ALUCARDA is a
dose of fine surrealistic international filmmaking without all those pesky
subtitles. Released by those crazy gents over at Mondo Macabro, the ALUCARDA
DVD comes packed with bonus extras, including a great interview with filmmaker
Guillermo del Toro, who pays credence to the film as a stalwart example of
Mexican filmmaking at its finest.
Satanic, bloody, controversial and nude. Come partake in
this international sin!
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