Visceral and disturbing Fabrice Du Welz shocking thriller is a grotesque love story based in part on the real life Lonely Hearts Killers Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck who brutally murdered up to 20 women they lured in by answering lonely hearts ads in a killing spree that lasted between 1947 and 1949.
In Du Welz’s film which he penned with Romain Protat the central character is damaged single mother Gloria (Lola Duenas) who lives with her son eking out a lonely existence until she meets charismatic Michel (Laurent Lucas) online who she is inexplicably instantly drawn to.
After only one date the pair become caught up in an intense and passionate romance that takes a strange and sick turn as they set about luring women into relationships with Michel in an attempt to con money out of them.
Dependent and insanely jealous Gloria only goes along with Michel’s plan for so long until she explodes in violence against the innocent women who find themselves unfortunately caught in their web of lies and depict. Doing as much damage to each other emotionally as they do physically to their victims the couple are caught in a spiral of destruction that spins faster out of control the further they go.
Forming the second part of Fabrice du Welz Ardennes trilogy along with Calvaire which not only shares the same South Belgium setting but also another excellent performance from actor Laurent Lucas, Alleluia is an arresting unsettling movie that gets deep inside its characters and audience.
Central to Alleluia are the amazing performances from Lucas and Duenas who are both as beguiling and believable as they are horrifying and unstable. Contrasting and complimenting each other they are almost two sides of the same warped coin as complex in their individuality as they are together as a serial killing couple.
It is to the credit of the actors and du Welz that there are times where we almost feel pity and sympathy for both of the murdering honeymooners and like other great movies that focus on the psychology of psychopaths such as Chained, Dark Tourist and Psycho the film peels back the myriad of layers underneath the characters proving that the concept of good and evil is far more complex in reality than it may at first seem.
For such a disgusting story Alleluia is beautifully filmed and the harsh desolate locations look almost picturesque as the pair travel around invading the lives of several women with the film split into acts around each doomed female they encounter.
Most interesting of all are the surreal moments injected into the piece at important moments which far from alienating the audience in fact bring us closer to understanding the mind of someone capable of killing.
While a more conventional filmmaker may have kept to stark inert realism du Welz is more daring and these abstract scenes accentuate both the figures portrayed and the film as a whole far beyond anything slavishly sticking to realism would have achieved.
Difficult to watch Alleluia is a challenging and upsetting movie as lingering and affecting as a terrible nightmare that haunts you even when you are awake. It is also extremely effective in uncovering the real life murderous and destructive nature that lies within some people that can only be triggered when they collide with another whose overwhelming love makes them capable of killing.