One of the most talked-about films on the horror and fantasy film festival circuit had its UK premiere at Film4 FrightFest in August. Fabrice du Welz’s Alleluia is based on the real-life story of the ‘Lonely Hearts Killers’: in 1940s America, Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck would find their victims through ‘lonely-hearts’ ads and murder them after Raymond married the victim. The case has been the subject of films before: the wonderful and underrated The Honeymoon Killers, directed by Leonard Kastle in 1969, and the magnificent, color-sated Deep Crimson, made in Mexico in 1996.
It’s no surprise that the case has fascinated filmmakers for so long. The story of two very odd and clearly unhinged personalities who carve a murderous path across America contains everything that frightens and attracts us all: love, money, sex, lust, anger. And in du Welz’s film they all meld together to create an explosive mélange of emotions that will leave no one indifferent.
Lola Dueñas is Gloria, a lonely woman working in a morgue and living a life uncomplicated by men after leaving her husband. At the insistence of her friend she signs up for a dating site and in her first encounter meets Michel (a brilliant, heart-stopping Laurent Lucas), who claims to be a shoe salesman.
It’s lust at first sight as Gloria falls head-over-heels in love with Michel, not knowing that he is, in fact, a small-time crook who makes a living by seducing and conning lonely women such as Gloria out of their money. When she discovers Michel’s true nature, Gloria finds herself unable to walk away: the two hatch a plan whereby Gloria will help Michel with his schemes, posing as his sister. But the plan goes badly wrong when in a frenzied fit of anger Gloria attacks Michel’s prey.
Powered by incredible performances from the entire cast, Alleluia is a force of nature: it’s a thunderstorm that will stun the audience again and again, a tempest that sweeps in the viewer and won’t let go. Violent, funny, unexpected and unexpectedly touching, the story of Michel and Gloria is told in episodic encounters, each of which furthers our understanding of their true nature. Shot in glorious 16mm, the frame is as alive as the players occupying it, and each scene is staged carefully to create a sense of heightened reality, which is both captivating and unnerving.
Not only one of the best film of 2014 but also a bona fide all-time gem, Alleluia is a shocking, bold film from one of today’s most exciting filmmakers. A must-see.
Watch the trailer: