Gloria, a single mom with a simple life, meets Michel and they go out for dinner during which he begins a con on her. After a one-night stand, she lends him money to help keep his business afloat. Little does she know, he spends it at a bar as she goes looking for him. She finds him and convinces him to keep her around. Together, they con women out of their money by seducing them as a brother and sister duo. Gloria’s jealous soon rears its ugly head and turns to violence and murder. The two then continue their romance and their evolution towards total chaos.
The film was written by Vincent Tavier, Romain Protat, and Fabrice Du Welz, the latter also directed it. Like Du Welz’s previous film Calvaire, Alleluia is a slow burn story that takes its time to develop characters and a sense of unease and building dread. His characters are all unhappy people trying to cling to the small hopes and joys they come across, even if those mean hurting the people they love. They are desperate and looking for a way, any way, out of their bleak lives. His direction of this material is appropriately subdued in most scenes and a bit more in your face for the violent sequences. He directs his cast with precision, getting a film that is cohesive and well crafter in the process.
Most of the story rests on the two leads’ shoulders with Lola Duenas as Gloria and Laurent Lucas as Michel. Lucas also starred in Calvaire for the same director and in In My Skin, another slow burn, well crafter horror film, bringing a somewhat familiar face to this film. Both of them are talented actors with long lists of quality roles behind them and it shows here. They play their characters with nuances and range, which makes them feel like humans, even through their worst scenes and when they show plain negative sides to themselves. They show emotions yet do not exaggerate any of them, which can easily happen with this type of material. The special effects are few and subdued as the kills are not gory but still violent in the way they are perpetrated and in their emotional impact.
This film is more about psychological violence than physical violence, the suffering of seeing one you love enjoy someone else, something special without you, the pain of seeing them happier elsewhere, to realize they have betrayed you. Alleluia is not a horror film for gore hounds but it’s not for the faint of heart either. It’s a slow burn that manages to grab you and makes you want to find out what happens to the leads, especially to Gloria who starts as another victim of Michel before becoming a criminal herself. This is not a feel good movie, it’s bleak, it’s unhappy, and it’s how it should be to serve its story properly as it’s inspired by the true story of Marthe Beck and Raymon Fernandez.