Iíve never taken much part in the blaxploitation genre before. Blacula looked like fun, Abbyís cover always freaked me out, and Black Devil Doll from Hell seemed to be the type of mindlessness that I was searching for. However, I never attempted to seek them out, and for that, I did not know what the subgenre in horror was truly about. Skip to a day at the mall, where rummaging through a dollar bin, I happened to come across Cutthroat Alley for $2.99. How much could it hurt? A fullscreen Artisan/Lions Gate DVD with a trailer, commentary, and both Mack 10 and Bizzy Bone! ďWho are they?Ē I asked, but I certainly did not care. This blaxploitation slasher, or more appropriately, hoodsploitation, would have to be evaluated immediately. ĎThe only way out of the hood is in a body bag.í
Robinson Jacobs (Cisco Reyes) is thrown a party by his mother (Janice Palmer) for accomplishing his school grades and being accepted to college. Paranoia soon swoops in when Jacobsí gang member, Chetty (Bizzy Bone) is reported murdered by way of a knife. The red herrings begin to appear, starting with white boy Winston (Josh Watson) who has always disliked the gang, then enemy gangs, and finally, even Jacobs himself! Robinsonís father was murdered in a gang shootout while driving, and more and more people suspect Jacobs of seeking revenge. Group member Brian (Mack 10) is next to drop dead, leaving Rome (Glenn Herman), Bones (Jose Turner), Chauncey (Hadrian Hooks) and Half Pint (A. Ramirez) to worry for their lives. Jacobsí girlfriend Angie (Marquita Joyce) and her best friend Terri (Khalida Outlaw) are growing suspicious of Jacobs as well. With no one to turn to, the hood will fill up with the bloody screams of those associated, unless somebody is smart enough to figure out this intelligent whodunit.
And I mean it! The explanation to the slasherís motive makes wonderful sense and it hints throughout the film so much that you wonder why you never even thought of the possibility. The reveal is extremely Scream-like, but itís still one in its own. Cutthroat Alleyís cover art and production value isnít something to give you high hopes for. This is a very independent movie, but luckily, above average acting, writing, and direction are more than enough to make up for any weak ends this feature may have started off with. The beginning feels almost like a comedy. The stereotypical dumb guy and gal are fooling around in their car when they hear a noise. The killer appears, dispatching the male while Lady Unluck falls to the killerís range of slicing. An 80s inspired cheesy score drifts in and out, while the camera specifically stares at the weapon, hands, and feet of the lurking prowler.
ďIs it gory?Ē you ask. No. While we have a knife-wielding killer in a skeleton mask and hoodie, the throat slices are either offscreen, minimal amounts of tearing, or simple splashes of blood. At least we have bloody rims. Although I should clear up your mind before the imagination wanders: Iím referring to a carís wheel being dyed in red. ďDamn girl!Ē Quoted by Terri, friend of Angie, she is by far my favorite character in the film. Sheís got attitude, spark, and at times she even says something funny. In a flashback scene, we see that Mr. Jacobs (Damon Chandler) borrows Robinsonís car, only to be shot at. Itís later revealed that the shooter wasnít aiming for Mr. Jacobs, but was hoping that Rob would be in the car. Itís not an actual spoiler as the audience will more than likely figure it out as soon as it happens. Overall, however, Cutthroat Alley does not become too predictable. Fairly foreseeable, yes, but nothing that pulls out every clichť in the book.
A criticism that I cannot express fully is the overuse of language at times. Though I have never visited a hood, and definitely not one in Los Angeles, I can only expect from what Iíve heard and been impressioned with that swearing is commonly used, so overuse is acceptable (not trying to be stereotypical). The thugs smoke weed, but only Chauncey is severely hooked on drugs. For some odd reason, pointless slow motion scenes are added to this 91 minute film; a real stumper to comprehend. Robinson narrates what he is thinking at times, turning the viewerís mood into one where they may be watching a drama. The ironic theme in Cuttroat Alley is that of the thugs mixing in with the slasher. Everyone is scared (though not excessively) about the killer on the loose but yet people come so close to being shot every time they walk onto the street. With a killer on the loose, Angie isnít too worried about safety. Sheíll walk alone to the park any day. Neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow, nor a skeleton masked hooded serial killer will stop her route. For a good time, itís worth it. For a second good time, it may be little more than a wasted portion of the night. I say, simply Rent it!