One Artist’s “Style” is Another Man’s “Get On With It Already!”
Main Cast: Jade Dornfeld
Director: Jay Lee
The first thing that confuses me about writer/director Jay Lee’s 2010 movie Alyce Kills is that this isn’t Lee’s first movie. So much of this movie felt like a first attempt by a young filmmaker out to make a name for himself that I think part of the story got lost in the “style”.
Alyce (Jade Dornfeld, On Holiday) is young woman with a crappy job and only one real friend, Carroll (Tamara Feldman, Hatchet), who, after one night of drinking and drugs, she accidentally pushes Carroll off the roof of her apartment building. Carroll lives, but is in bad shape in the hospital. Soon guilt and despair start to overtake Alyce and she starts drinking and doing drugs a lot heavier than she ever had before until one particular encounter with her dealer makes her realize she needs to stop hiding from her problems and start taking control of the situation. To that end, she deals with the most pressing matter: Carroll.
As far as anyone knows, Carroll was alone on the roof, depressed because her boyfriend dumped her, and Alyce had no idea she jumped until the police came knocking on her door. But with Carroll still alive–albeit unable to talk, she seizes up any time Alyce comes into the room–Alyce’s story won’t hold up forever, so she does what needs to be done to insure her own safety. But from there, she can’t stop, dealing with all the other problem people in her life lately.
Alyce Kills feels like an independent movie from the 90s, like Basketball Diaries or, at times, like Pulp Fiction. That’s not meant as the compliment it probably sounds like. I would rather it feel like itself. But the fact it recalls so many other movies–older movies–is a large part of what makes this feel like a first movie, like the work of a writer/director just now getting into his craft and learning how things work. The problem is, this is Lee’s 8th movie as director and 6th as writer. These are affectations he should have worked out a few movies ago.
Dornfeld’s portrayal is pretty solid, although Alyce is an unsympathetic character I felt not one ounce of pity for, which I think is the opposite of Lee’s intentions as he goes out of his way to make Alyce seem the most pathetic weakling in town. Maybe it’s Lee’s writing of the character, maybe it’s Dornfeld’s acting. Either way, I didn’t feel sorry for her. She spent the majority of the movie as a spineless waif with an obviously tenuous grasp on reality. When she finally broke out of that shell and took charge, she showed some sparks of life, but by then it was clear she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic anyway and it wasn’t so much about watching this woman take the wheel as it was about watching this woman unravel completely. Even the last shot of the movie, it’s clear Alyce isn’t working with a full deck.
Another standout would have to be Rex, the drug dealer, played by Eddie Rouse, who was also the most interesting character in Pandorum. The character itself was a walking cliché, even Alyce points this out, but Rouse gives Rex a strange quality that you can’t help but want to see more of.
Alyce Kills should, and could, have been a better movie but I felt Lee was too bogged down in making it visually interesting stylistically, sacrificing character and story for flashing lights and loud music.
That being said, Alyce Kills is, in the end, a good enough movie to recommend. And the last fifteen minutes alone are plenty gory enough to satisfy the gorehound in everyone. I’d give this one 3 ½ out of 5.