As the second installment in his proposed Ardennes trilogy (following 2004 debut Calvaire), Belgian director Fabrice du Welz’s Alleluia bases his latest madness on the true account of serial killing couple Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, a case that famously inspired Honeymoon Killers (1969). While the darker side of love is nothing new to the horror genre, Du Welz’s take is an incredibly stylish, aggressive and nightmarish odyssey into the dark heart of obsession, in one of the most visually frightening and memorable films of Frightfest 2014.
The plot revolves around a womanizer and crazed internet dating cook Michel (Laurent Lucas) who meets his murderous match when he hooks up with damaged single mother and mortician Gloria (Lola Duenas) – A women who falls hopelessly for him despite realizing his intentions as a fickle conman / escort. After agreeing on a subversive deal where Michel’s charm is used to seduce and marry wealthy older women with Gloria always nearby as Michel’s supposed ‘sister’ , everything runs smoothly until Gloria’s obsessive love turns jet black, manifesting in fits of murderous rage that grow increasingly intense as the film progresses.
Oscillating between tension filled gritty drama, surreal song and enigmatic shock horror, Lola Duena’s needy Gloria possesses a sexual intensity and unwillingness to play ‘second fiddle’ that even frightens Michel, with Du Welz painting a picture of a relationship fostered by bloodshed and sustained by fear. Calvaire lead Laurent Lucas also reuniting with Du Welz is a pleasure to behold, as a Humphrey Bogart styled love rat and willing love slave to Gloria, rendered useless in the wake of her uncontrollable rampages until a terrifying demand of violent retribution in the fourth act pushes his morality and patience to the absolute limit.
Separated into four distinct sections in the style of Lars Von Trier, with an elliptic ending that has shades of the hellish opening of Gasper Noe’s Irreversible (2002), Alleluia is an incredible film – beautifully composed in grainy 16mm, sustained by terrifying performances and accelerated by the striking visual design of cinematographer Manuel Dacosse. Whether writhing around the bonfire in sexualised hypnotic montages, sharing sinister laughs at a screening of The African Queen (1951) or inflicting post-coital bludgeoning by shoe, Du Welz’s strange and hysterical portrayal of love in Alleluia will be surely be etched into your subconscious long after the credits roll.
Director: Fabrice du Welz
Cast: Lola Duenas, Laurent Lucas, Anne-Marie Loop, Edit Lemerdy, Helena Noguerra
Runtime: 92 mins
Country: Belgium, France