The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"ALLELUIA"

Alleluia

There are essentially two ways for a movie to be frightening. The first way is through the use of scares things jumping out unexpectedly, abrupt loud noises on the soundtrack, etc. The other way is by assembling elements in such a manner as to burrow uncomfortably under the viewer's skin. Both can be perfectly valid. The second way is probably more difficult to pull off, though. The thriller Alleluia is a great example of how it's done. Legitimately shocking in the way it mixes sex and violence, the film leaves you feeling unsettled and on edge.

In the opening scene, we meet Gloria (Lola Duenas), a bitter divorcee with a young daughter. A friend coerces Gloria into accepting an online date invitation from Michel (Laurent Lucas). She's so desperate for decent male companionship that she doesn't initially register how odd he is. Her vision is even further clouded upon some mind-blowing sex at the end of the evening. Gloria soon discovers that Michel is a womanizer who scams his victims out of money, but she's willing to tolerate this activity so long as he promises to remain faithful to her. Of course, liars lie, and when Michel consummates a pretend marriage to his latest victim, Gloria (pretending to be his sister to help advance the ruse) becomes enraged, brutally killing the woman. The duo moves on to two more victims. In both cases, Michel needs to include intimacy to sell the illusion, while Gloria seethes with dangerous jealousy.

Alleluia is by no means a faith-based film, although it may resonate with strong-stomached viewers who have an interest in religion. At its most primal level, the story deals with themes of greed and lust. Michel represents the former, as he's always thinking about how he can scam more money from vulnerable, unsuspecting women. Gloria, meanwhile, represents the latter. She wants Michel sexually all for herself. She doesn't want to share him. As the plot leads to nastier and bloodier outcomes, Alleluia depicts how greed and lust prove to be the downfall of these two individuals. The deadly sins cause them to lose focus, to become so obsessed that they can't see what they're falling into until it's too late.

Director Fabrice Du Welz takes an already lurid tale and infuses it with as much dread as possible. At times, he uses extremely tight angles, particularly during Gloria's rages, to put the audience as close to the horrific violence taking place as possible. You see murderous eyes and fearful, screaming mouths in agonizing detail. In other moments, Gloria simply loses control and begins slapping herself and/or Michel. Material like this emphasizes how insanely out of her own head she is. Du Welz also subverts expectations by including more fanciful elements to help further the off-kilter tone. At one point, Gloria breaks into song while standing eerily still next to the naked corpse of a victim, a bloody saw in her hand. Another scene finds Gloria and Michel engaging in some sort of demonic bonfire dance, assembled via a combination of back-lit cinematography, fast-forward motion, and almost subliminally choppy editing. Alleluia is creatively made, which ensures that the story's events continually unfold with great impact.

Lola Duenas is utterly convincing in this role, making us understand how Gloria becomes trapped in a spiral of envy and retribution. Through her performance, we sense that Gloria has been broken by her ex-husband, whom she refers to as a bastard. It can be insinuated that she doesn't think she can find a good man, so when she meets Michel and is so romantically/sexually gratified by him, she convinces herself that he's worth holding on to at all costs. Fear of losing him causes her to behave in ways she likely could never have imagined. None of this is explicitly stated in the film, yet Duenas opens up the character's whole world to us, giving glimpses of how this emotionally damaged woman veers into such unhinged territory.

Alleluia will not be for everyone. It's very violent, and the violence often follows fairly graphic sexuality. Those with a taste for adventurous, boundary-pushing cinema, on the other hand, will be taken for a wild ride. Alleluia unflinchingly shows how the human soul can be corrupted. This is a provocative and monumentally nerve-wracking thriller.

( 1/2 out of four)

Note: Alleluia will be available in select theaters and all VOD outlets simultaneously, starting July 17.


Alleluia is unrated, but contains graphic sexuality and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.


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