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SXSW Review: Bitch Ass | A Black Slasher with Great Callbacks

Director: Bill Posley
Screenwriters: Jonathan Colomb and Bill Posley
Starring: Sheaun McKinney, Tunde Laleye, Me’Lisa Sellers, Teon Kelly, and Tony Todd
Cinematographer: Steven Parker


In the opening sequence of Bill Posley’s clever tale of revenge, Tony Todd (Candyman and Final Destination) introduces the urban legend of Bitch Ass. Sitting comfortably at a piano playing a creepy tune, Todd’s Titus Blaq warns viewers of the gruesome story, weaving in a sinister yet infectious laugh that feels appropriate for what’s to come. It’s an homage to Tales from the Hood, a horror comedy anthology film popularized and celebrated within the Black community. And it’s nothing short of a glorious spectacle.

Bitch Ass tells the story of Cecil (Tunde Laleye), the titular character who was coined the nickname after a series of run-ins with his class bully Spade (Sheaun McKinney). After the 6th street gang left him for dead in 1980, no one’s heard from him since. Nearly 20 years later, gang leader Spade sends a new batch of recruits to rob Cecil’s house. Little do they know, Bitch Ass has been patiently waiting for a night of vengeance, and he’s not holding back…

Often occupied with humor to pair opposite of its horror elements, Posley’s Bitch Ass takes confident strides towards a steady balance of fun and terror. In the first half of the feature, Posley sets the foundation of the story by revealing the state of the town, which has been plagued by gang activity for years. In these sequences, we’re introduced to gang recruits Q (Teon Kelley), Moo (A-F-R-O), Cricket (Belle Guillory), and Tuck (Kelsey Caesar), a group of teens who just want to get paid for various reasons. Unbeknownst to them, their initiation assignment is to steal from the one guy who’s been plotting death traps for anyone who dares disrupt his peace.

Courtesy of SXSW

The real fun begins when the group traverses through Cecil’s house. There, Posley effectively takes viewers back in time in a series of flashbacks to review Cecil’s backstory. It’s a clever approach to build a framework for Cecil’s motives, especially since they’re skillfully timed with the recruits picking up objects that reveal a complete story about Cecil’s past. Here, Posley’s directing choices are suave and confident and paired nicely with Rylan Rafferty’s sharp editing.

About half-way through Bitch Ass, viewers can expect the film to lean more into its horror roots with life-threatening games that Cecil forces his captured victims to play. Think Jigsaw traps from the Saw franchise with less gore and more facetime with their potential killer. Don’t let the “less gore” fool you, though. The feature heavily taps into bloody territory with the only limitation being its budget. Still, these sequences never cross the “torture porn” line, which makes it that much more tasteful and entertaining than some of its predecessors.

If there’s one thing that works against Posley’s creative horror flick, it’s the lack of distinction for the film’s various settings. Taking place partly during 1980 then 1999, there’s no real difference between the two timepoints throughout the feature. Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt the project too greatly because the straightforward script paired with Posley’s direction are enough to stand on their own merits. But it’s certainly a missed opportunity, as it could have enhanced the feature’s overall appeal.

Equal parts entertaining and clever, Bitch Ass is a nice entry into the Black slasher genre. With great callbacks to narrative concepts from Tales from the Hood and Saw, the film blends the best elements of its predecessors with a gloriously fresh spin. Viewers unfamiliar with the ideas behind this may get caught up with the budgetary restrictions. But under Posley’s vision, just about everything works in this tale of vengeance despite those limitations. I can’t wait to see what director Bill Posley does next.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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