“Alice Fades Away is a progressive take on a classic tale. It is about patriarchy, legacy and death but more importantly it’s about perseverance and strength in the face of fear and power by someone who’s not allowed to have her own identity.”
— Director Ryan Bliss on his feature film debut
In the overcrowded streaming-verse with so many movies vying for the hope that we hit the big red streaming button on their film, the casting is the thing. And if you’ve spent any amount of time at B&S About Movies, you know how we champion certain actors in our little ol’ cubicle farm. So, yeah. We’ve watched more than our fair share of Eric Roberts-is-on-the box movies, even if he’s not the “star” of the film, because Eric rocks our analog and digital decks.
The “Eric Roberts” of this feature film writing and directing debut by Ryan Bliss (although he’s here more than the usual Eric Roberts appearance) is character actor William Sadler, whom you’ve most recently seen in Bill and Ted Face the Music, but you know Sadler best via the perpetual cable TV replays of Die Hard 2 and The Shawshank Redemption, as well as the earliest seasons of TV’s Roseanne. However, the greatest aspect of this beautifully shot and acted film is that Sadler’s presence exposes us to the start of a great leading lady career with new-to-the-scene Ashley Shelton (ABC-TV’s Army Wives; made her feature film, leading-lady debut in 2014’s Something, Anything), as well as Paxton Singleton (got his start in the 2018 The Haunting of Hill House mini-series), and the return of Blanche Baker, who you remember as the older sister bride-to-be in Sixteen Candles.
A period-drama thriller, Alice Sullivan is a troubled woman on the run who finds refuge on her uncle’s farm that now serves as a home to WWII PSTD-afflicted survivors. The refuge of the idyllic, isolated farmhouse — which is revealed to be haunted by strange voices in its rooms and surrounding woods — is soon upended by the powerful and mysterious James Sullivan (William Sadler), the wealthy family’s patriarch. He hires Holden (Timothy Sekk; a recent guest star on NBC TV’s The Blacklist) to retrieve his only surviving relative: Logan (Paxton Singleton), his grandson — and Alice’s son. And, in addition to bringing back his grandson, James Sullivan wants Alice to “disappear.” Will Alice’s new found family of the PTSD-afflicted fight to protect Logan and the increasingly paranoid Alice against the violent motives of Holden?
Edited to a suspenseful, tight 80-minutes, Alice Fades Away is a film that can — after it completes its streaming-platform run — increase its well-deserved wider exposure as an also-ran commercial cable TV movie (while it’s above the quality of most of the channel’s films, it would work well on Lifetime). While it’s not as graphic in its violence or as mysterious (i.e., “confusing” in some quarters) as most twisted, British Gothic thrillers or Spanish Giallos (my thoughts drifted to Jose Ramon Larraz’s Symptoms from 1974), Bliss’s choice to dispense with the shock-scares to keep the flashback-driven narrative restrained and subtle, is appreciated. This is a quiet film that paces its mystery and thrills. As with Larraz’s Symptoms, we ask the question: What’s “wrong” at this remote forest estate. Are the voices real. Are the voices figments of the home’s PSTD war heroes. Is that “smell” of war; the rotting flesh of the dead (the resident’s damaged souls), really back?
1091 Pictures will release Alice Fades Away on digital platforms in the USA and Canada on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021. Look for it on Amazon, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes/AppleTV, Microsoft, Vudu, and all cable system VOD platforms. You can also visit 1091 Pictures on Facebook for more information regarding their releases, such as the recently released, the low-budget sci-fi film, Space.
Disclaimer: We received a screener from the studio’s P.R. firm. That has no bearing on our review.