Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Stars: Lola Dueñas, Laurent Lucas, Héléna Noguerra
Praise the Lord! Another fabulous Fabrice film
Even though a little middle-aged Belgian man called Fabrice Du Welz has only made three feature films in his career, he still happens to be one of my favourite directors. My love affair started when I sat and watched a film called Calvaire which left me dumbstruck and disturbed. How it still hasn’t become an iconic horror classic is still beyond me. I love every single thing about it, even down to the little details like the name, Marc Stevens and his bulky Michelin Man red coat. It’s one of my favourite ever films. Then came an underrated little atmospheric English-language horror called, Vinyan. You can imagine my excitement when Fabrice announced a thematic sequel to Calvaire starring Laurent Lucas and featuring Fabrice’s favourite theme of ‘mad love’.
I was blown away by the intense trailer but unfortunately the film wasn’t getting much buzz. Even now, after it has been released for yonks, no one seems to be talking about it or seeing it. There’s barely five reviews on IMDb and the message board is dead in the water, but oh well it’s everyone else’s loss! Alleluia is an electrifying slice of raw and intense romantic horror. Well, I say romantic, it’s Fabrice’s idea of romantic which tends to involve obsessive psychopaths. His debut short film, A Wonderful Love featured a woman falling in love with the corpse of a stripper and Calvaire saw an inn keeper convincing himself that a male guest was his long-lost wife. Alleluia tells the tale of an insane woman becoming besotted with an insane man and going on a killing spree.
It’s frightening to think that Alleluia is actually based on a real-life case in America where a couple ended up murdering 17 women in America during the 1940’s. Fabrice of course puts his unique spin on things. It opens with a disturbing shot of our hero, Gloria sponging the body of a corpse in the morgue she works at. She then stops and looks directly at us sitting in our little living room arm chairs with her wide eyes penetrating our souls until ‘Alleluia’ flashes up on the screen. Right away you know that you’re in for the Fabrice Du Welz experience.
Alleluia has that same grainy, dirty look as Fabrice’s other films. It feels incredibly raw and scarily real, almost like one of Lars Von Trier’s Dogme films. There’s also a strong claustrophobic atmosphere throughout thanks to the intrusive camerawork which is almost always in front of the actors’ faces or backs. In fact, it’s pretty jarring whenever we’re given a long-shot, it’s almost as though the film is allowing you to breathe. All of the lighting feels very natural too with dark scenes being almost completely black and grainy so that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. All of this contributes to an overall atmospheric and intense experience throughout.
What surprised me was the stupendous quality of acting from our main stars. Laurent Lucas is usually cast as the charming goody in the films he’s in but has lately been venturing into darker territory. Those who saw the recent French series, Witnesses where Laurent played an everyday family man who liked to put white make-up on his face and kill young women at night won’t be surprised to find out that he’s similarly chilling in the role of Michel. We first see him performing some sort of voodoo on a photo of Gloria before he meets her for the first time and he only gets creepier from there. Laurent puts on a strange raspy voice and plays the part of the serial seducer extremely convincingly and never without a psychotic glint in his eyes.
It’s Lola as Gloria who steals the show though. Lola too usually plays the part of the kindly woman, mostly in Pedro Almodovar’s terrific dramas. Here she’s in total psycho mode as the dangerously obsessed lover who will do absolutely anything and everything for Michel. In fact, Gloria makes Michel look positively normal in comparison and Lola acts the hell out of it without it ever feeling too over-the-top. In a fair world, the Academy would’ve recognised Alleluia and popped Lola up for an Oscar nom. I’m not even kidding, she really is that good!
Alleluia is split into four acts, all named after the women Michel seduces. Their master plan is for Gloria to pose as Michel’s brother whilst Michel seduces the women and steals of their money. However, there’s that old green-eyed monster in the way called Jealousy. Gloria does not like seeing Michel being affectionate with the old women he’s marrying and so intense violence and chaos ensues for the majority of Alleluia’s tight 90 minute runtime. To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the fun of it all. I can tell you, though that there was not one moment where I was bored. Alleluia always kept me gripped by the throat and didn’t let go.
Whilst the film is less surreal than Fabrice’s previous efforts, it’s still absolutely insane and full of WTF moments. For me Calvaire feels like a string of iconic moments and Alleluia has a few of them too. My favourites include a bizarre Magnolia-styled musical interlude (with added corpses), a creepy Humphrey Bogart-infused trip to the cinema and a disorientating segment which sees the couple dancing around naked in flames with grinding electronic music. The film has more than its fair share of sensory overload and it all makes for an unpredictable and absorbing experience. It also has lots of brilliant uses of black humour. The best example probably comes from when Michel is trying to fleece a religious woman by telling her blatant lies whilst Gloria hysterically laughs, covering it up as hysterical cries.
The strongest segment is arguably the final act which results in a terrifyingly intense finale which leaves you begging for more. Alleluia really is a blistering thriller full of shocking violence, stupendous acting and intense directing. Chances are that you’ve never heard of it so it’s your duty to seek this out and give it the attention it deserves. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed.