SXSW Film Review: Bitch Ass

A smart and sinister entry into the pantheon of Black nightmare cinema

Bitch Ass

Trying to pigeonhole Bitch Ass, director Bill Posley’s feature debut, into the relatively recently revivified genre of African-American horror movies is a game you really don’t want to play.

A self-referential, pre-credits introduction by Tony Todd sets the tone with the actor reflecting on past genre highlights: Blackula, Bones, Wes Craven’s terminally underrated The People Under the Stairs and, with a mordant chuckle, Candyman. This, he tells us, is the story of “the first black serial killer to ever don a mask.” Watching the genre icon Todd chew the scenery with such obvious gusto is a weirdly comforting way to begin a horror show that before long dives six feet deep into a canny commentary on multiple grim issues specific to the Black community. (It’s well worth noting here that Bitch Ass features an all-Black cast.)

At first glance Posley’s film feels like a fairly straightforward tale from the ‘hood. Hyper-stylized while cutting between 1980 and 1999, “Bitch Ass” is the nickname given to teenage social outcast Cecil (Jarvis Denman Jr.) by the local wannabe gangstas. An easy mark, the shy young kid is a chubby misfit and seeming mama’s boy with a joyful jones for board games. No surprise then that he ends up being jumped by the gang, who savage his face with razor blades and leave him for dead.

Twenty years later the memory of Bitch Face has become an urban legend and a new generation of teen gangbangers is heading out on their own initiation. Cricket (Belle Guillory), Moo (A-F-R-O), Tuck (Kelsey Caesar), and the collegiate-minded Q (Teon Kelley) are ordered by top dawg Spade (Sheaun McKinney) to pick a target and do the deed. Unfortunately they inadvertently target Bitch Ass (Tunde Laleye), now a hulking masked maniac with an underground lair and still more board games and bloodlust.

But there’s more to co-writers Posely and Jonathan Colomb’s scenario than meets the eye. Bitch Ass’ numerous subtexts address everything from the consequences of systemic racism within the African-American community to the implications of being different in urban Black America. Far more than just another genre horror story, in Bitch Ass’ worldview any kind of success outside of brutality is something to be punished. Whether it’s Rock Paper Scissors, a Rubik’s Cube, or the world’s deadliest Jenga competition, street smart trumps book smart, and that may be the scariest game of all.


Bitch Ass

Midnighters, World Premiere
Wednesday, March 16, 10:15pm, Alamo Lamar
Saturday, March 19, 3:15pm,, Alamo Lamar
Online: March 15, 9am-March 17, 9am

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW, SXSW 2022, SXSW Film 2022, Bitch Ass

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