Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Robert Carradine, Amelia Jackson-Grey, Randy Wayne, Shayne Lamas, Robert Thomas Stetson, Bobb Hopkins, Laura Lyon, Jessica Alexander
Written and directed by Bobb Hopkins
Friday, June 13, 2008: On the same day that saw The Incredible Hulk and The Happening open in theaters were any of you aware that an independently released slasher flick called The 13th Alley also slipped into theaters under the radar? I’m guessing this is the first you’ve heard of it given not a single horror site I know of has ever mentioned it and you won’t even find a listing for the film on Rotten Tomatoes. Its only internet presence is an impoverished MySpace page. Me, I only learned of it thanks to a message board poster giving me a head’s up. Luckily for me, one of the only 72 theaters it opened in was within reasonable driving distance.
Simply put, The 13th Alley may very well be one of the worst movies of all time. It’s simply awful, really awful, “Oh, my god, I cannot believe I saw this in a theater” awful; the kind of awful that actually transcends awfulness and becomes entertaining in spite of itself. This is one for the ages. I haven’t laughed out loud this much at a movie in a long time. Trailers for The Love Guru and Get Smart preceded this film and I guarantee you neither of those movies will generate as many intentional laughs as this film did unintentionally.
As I begin writing this review I honestly don’t know what possible knife rating to score it with because this is a movie that’s only redeeming quality was being entertained by the sheer badness of it. How do you score a film like that? Just be glad I’m not going to dive heavily into spoiler territory otherwise this review would be 30-pages long, cataloging the plot holes, logic gaps, and continuity problems.
The 13th Alley is an inconsistently low rent campy slasher flick of the straight-to-DVD variety about a bunch of useless college kids after hours at a bowling alley being killed off by a mysterious masked psycho. The bowling alley setting of course explains why the killer runs around dressed like a medieval executioner. WTF?!?! Sporting a big executioner’s axe and dressed in a black cloak, the moment you get a look at the mask any pretense of terror is shattered. One of the looniest slasher masks ever, that thing on the killer’s head appears to be the sort of medieval fantasy helmet you’d find on a heavy metal album cover, yet it’s more like a metal box with eyeholes and a slight point in the front that some teenager welded from scrap metal in their high school shop class. Go watch the trailer and see for yourself.
Now let’s enjoy a few sample snippets of the script’s Diablo Cody-esque exposition.
“This ain’t a time to be a bitch, bitch.”
“This is going to be a great fucking pizza!”
And let’s not forget these wonderful guy-girl exchanges:
“Do you like my ass?”
“I like your vagina.”
Sweetening the pot further, one particular comely young victim is Lorenzo Lamas’ daughter, Shayne, last seen being chosen by last season’s “The Bachelor”, and if the history of that TV program continues on track, she will soon be dumped by the bachelor, if she hasn’t already. If this film is any indication of things to come, Shayne Lamas is poised to proudly follow in her papa’s B-movie footsteps.
The young and vacuous female characters consist of a hot blonde, a slutty blonde, a shy brunette, and a Jamaican gal who really ought to have shaved her armpits before appearing in a movie. All have bikini model bodies except for the brunette girl who still has a nice body but just isn’t as well toned as the others which is most likely why they cast her as the nervous girl insecure about showing off her body.
On the male side of the spectrum, given their personality traits, the three guys should have been named Dumbass, Dipshit, and Fucktard. Two out of three of them have underwear model bodies; the other is a bit beefy but still gets a hot blonde to make out with him.
The reason I mention their bodies so much is because the movie opens with these characters (except the Jamaican girl who comes later) playing a game of strip bowling – stripping down to their underwear, at least.
Someone finds time to tell the others about how some murders supposedly once occurred at this bowling alley that involved bowling with severed heads. This’ll lead to a practical joke involving a fake severed head coming out of the ball return that causes the brunette to totally spaz out in unconvincingly hysterical but hilarious fashion. Something about her father years earlier having gone nuts and decapitated his boss, I think; just one of the film’s many inconsistent and underdeveloped factoids thrown out there in random spurts of dialogue.
Little did they know Hal was watching them the whole time and, being a pious man, Hal does not approve of their lewd behavior and vows to show these “Sodom and Gomorrah poster children” the right path by putting the fear of God into them. Robert “Revenge of the Nerds” Carradine chews the scenery with gusto as religious zealot Hal, an ex-priest turned bowling alley technician who quit the priesthood because, as he puts it, he couldn’t control his evil thoughts. Written and played with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb blast, Hal’s intensely creepy over-the-top caricature of a religious wacko character eventually, and rather abruptly, becomes an outright comedic parody by the end. The moment I laughed out loud hardest was when Robert Carradine put on the priestly garb that he just happened to keep in his bag with him at all times so he could run around with a Bible in one hand, a power drill he’s deemed his instrument of God’s handy work in the other, dressed like a Mexican priest circa the Wild West era. WTF?!?! indeed.
Also spying on them was security guard Zeke (writer-director Bobb Hopkins pulling triple duty), who is also not without his personality issues, such as his constant talk about the devil.
There got to be so much religious talk for awhile there I began wondering if The 13th Alley wasn’t actually a Christian recruitment movie being deceptively marketed as a slasher flick to lure in unsuspecting potential converts. At one point Hal even chastises the young FX artist wannabe behind the fake severed head for committing the sin of scaring others. I was not aware scaring people was sinful. No need for Bobb Hopkins to worry because there’s nothing scary about his film. But I knew this couldn’t possibly be because what kind of Christian filmmaker would try to get their message across by making an R-rated slasher flick loaded with severed heads and girls dancing in thongs? My kind of Christian filmmaker! But, alas, that is not the case here.
The days following will see the teens being stalked by someone through a telephoto lens and having sick practical jokes played on them: fake blood pours out of a beer tap, a bleeding baby doll is discovered, spring-loaded cat doll jumps out at someone, and other stuff that wouldn’t even cut it on the worst episode of “Scare Tactics”. They still decide to have another after hours, nudity-free strip bowling session.
Replacing the freaked out brunette from the week before will be the hoochie-dancing Jamaican gal who claims she can hypnotize others by challenging them to a staring contest and then rolling her eyes around like a loon. What she doesn’t know is that actors aren’t supposed to look directly into the camera. She’ll provide another great LOL moment when she strips down to her underwear and as everyone around her is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, there she is playing directly to the camera making seductive faces.
Once again, Hal and Zeke, neither of whom seems to have a life outside the bowling alley, are on hand to spy on them. Once again, the prank with the severed head is played again – for real this time. Cellular phones can’t get a signal out, business phones are dead; everything in the place is dead except for an electronic message board informing them “You … Will… Never… Escape… HELL” and unlucky lane 13 is still active for reasons that matter little. Everyone’s locked in (except for Hal and Zeke for some reason) and there are no windows for anyone to shatter to escape out of (except for the all those painted windows we see that, apparently, don’t count as windows).
About the halfway point when the slasher angle kicks into high gear is also the point where the movie began to drag a bit. That’s what happens when there’s no suspense or rooting interest and what too few kills there are end up being fairly unimpressive, sometimes even off-camera. Certain characters will even break into casual chitchat as if they’re not particularly concerned that their lives are at risk.
Topping it all off is a twist ending that is sooooooooo bad, B-A-D bad … We’re talking the kind of bad twist ending that leaves audiences wanting to throw tomatoes at the screen. Not just any tomatoes, mind you, I wanted to throw some of those tomatoes tainted with salmonella that have been making so many people sick of late.
What a piece of crap! What a stupid, stupid movie! Even if some of the stupidity was intentional, still, what a stupid, stupid movie. How the hell did this get any kind of theatrical release? Yet here I am laughing and smiling even as I write about it so it must have done something right even as it seemed to do everything else wrong. Can’t say the same for the only other person in the theater with me who high-tailed it out of there less than a half hour in. I know can’t in good conscience recommend this movie to everyone and yet…
One billion knives! I’ve settled on my knife rating. One billion knives! I don’t know how Johnny Butane will work it out, but I’m giving The 13th Alley one billion knives. Woohoo! Make of that what you will. One billion knives, baby!
1,000,000,000 out of 5
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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