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13th Alley, The (2008)

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The 13th Alley reviewReviewed 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:

“Get naked!”
“Fuck you!”

“Do you like my ass?”
“I like your vagina.”

The 13th Alley reviewSweetening 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 13th Alley reviewThe 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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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!

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User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.

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User Rating 3.1 (10 votes)
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The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

Directed by Guillermo del Toro


“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

  • Film
4.5

Summary

The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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User Rating 4.57 (7 votes)
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