Sunday, August 13, 2023

Short Take – Alucarda


Alucarda Poster

(1977) Directed by Juan López Moctezuma; Written by Juan López Moctezuma and Alexis Arroyo; Starring: Claudio Brook, David Silva, Tina Romero, Susana Kamini, Lili Garza and Tina French; Available on DVD 

Rating: ***

Alucarda and Justine

“…the film draws on the vampire tradition, and in a way the protagonist is a female vampire… but not in the sense of a blood drinker. In fact, she has all the powers and attributes of the classic vampire. Except that she doesn’t have to drink blood. I’ve given Alucarda all the vampiric powers Bram Stoker mentions that never get shown in films, as well as the ones you’d expect.” –  Juan López Moctezuma (excerpted from 1977 interview)

The Convent

Juan López Moctezuma was a filmmaker who followed his passions, which didn’t translate to making movies that were commercially popular. While Alucarda* was not a critical or box office hit at the time, Moctezuma’s film has won over many fans, including Guillermo del Toro. Alucarda owes as much to Dracula and Carmilla as it does to the glut of demonic possession movies that proliferated throughout the 1970s, and experimental European horror films. As a nod to his mentor, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moctezuma employed many surreal touches, including imaginative set design, costumes, and characters depicted in broad strokes. The film’s centerpiece, a convent/orphanage, doesn’t resemble anything based in reality, with its primeval appearance, seemingly carved out of rock. Likewise, the nuns that populate the convent are clad from head to toe in blood-stained bandages, rather than the expected habits.   

* Fun Fact #1: Moctezuma planned a sequel called Alucarda Rises from the Tomb, but sadly it never materialized.

Dr. Oszek and Alucarda

Orphaned teenager Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives at a convent, where she meets fellow orphan Alucarda (Tina Romero, who also plays her own mother, Lucy Westenra – a direct reference to Dracula)*, who’s obviously not on the same wavelength as the other residents (Hmm, could it be… Satan?). As Justine becomes corrupted by her charms, they make a blood pact, sealing their fates. Father Lázaro (David Silva) and nuns, however, aren’t about to let demonic forces run wild during their watch. They are joined by the initially skeptical Dr. Oszek (Claudio Brook) to combat the evil scourge threatening their convent. 

* Fun Fact #2: Although Alucarda was supposedly 15, Romero was 28 at the time of shooting. Although Kamini’s age has not been officially published, it’s obvious she was well out of her teens.


Tina Romero shines in the title role of Alucarda, embodying equal doses of mischief, menace, and seductive charisma. With her intense gaze and impish smile, it’s easy to see why Justine and the doctor’s daughter, Daniela (Lili Garza) fall under her spell. Claudio Brook stands out as the self-righteous, hypocritical Dr. Oszek, who openly criticizes the convent and their barbaric practices. Perhaps it only fitting that he also plays a satyr-like hunchback,* who tempts Alucarda and Justine into shunning their religious baggage and embracing more hedonistic pursuits. 

* Forgive the momentary digression, but it’s interesting to note that the well-worn hunchbacked assistant trope (a staple of many genre films from the silent age to the 1970s) thrived for decades before fizzling out by the ‘80s. Then again, it was arguably a trope that had long outstayed its welcome.

Justine Possessed

Alucarda’s depiction of demonic possession represents a post-modern take on the material, with the film’s purposefully ambiguous sympathies. While the world of the orphanage seems hellish and oppressive, the alternative, represented by Alucarda, seems favorable. Being bad has never seemed so good, and being good has never seemed so awful. Alucarda succeeds visually with its imaginative set design, lighting, and themes that blur the delineation between good and evil. The characters are never quite fleshed out (Justine, outside of her relationship with Alucarda, doesn’t have much of a personality) and the incessant screaming that proliferates throughout the soundtrack becomes tiresome (you might want to lower the volume on your TV). Although Alucarda might not quite live up to the weight of its lofty ambitions, it’s an important addition to the horror genre.


  1. Good review, Barry! This sounds like a visually intriguing film, especially how the nuns are dressed!
    Personally, I'm sort of glad the hunchback trope didn't fizzle out any sooner or we may not have some of Andy Milligan's more sympathetic characters.

    1. Thanks, John. If you decide to see this one, I forgot to mention that it was filmed in English, so no need for subtitles. ;) Good point about Milligan!

    2. I generally assume when you review a film made outside of the United States that there will be subtitles, so thank you for letting me know this one was filmed in english!