[PANIC FEST] BITCH ASS Review - Revenge, Deadly Board Games and Original Storytelling

Sarah Kirk says Bitch Ass is a story of pure revenge and torture games, but with a twist.


The first black serial killer and masked villain is BITCH ASS, written and directed by Bill Posley, the film premiered at SXSW in Austin and was screened at Panic Fest 2022.
Courtesy of Shane Brown

Pick your next game wisely, the next card or dice roll you play, could be your last. BITCH ASS (2022), directed and written by Bill Posley, along with co-writer Jonathan Colomb present a slightly prosaic film with adequate horror tropes, set design, and cinematography. The film premiered at SXSW in Austin and tells a story of real-life horrors such as generational trauma, internalized pain, and maternal instinct. Opening with a truly perfect set design from Jeremey Jonathan White including cobwebs, a chandelier, old books, and candles, we are presented with Tony Todd (Candyman). Todd describes Bitch Ass as the first black serial killer with a mask, intriguing the audience and breaking the fourth wall. The camera pans to BITCH ASS adorned as a horror VHS tape, a classic 90s throwback. From the VHS tape, the camera pans to an old static TV where the film begins.


A gang initiation goes awry after four recruits are sent into a supposedly abandoned home. Unfortunately, the home is a house of games with a sick twist. They’re forced to play or die. Win and you live, lose and you’re dead. Set in 1999, gang leader Spade (Sheaun McKinney) gives a task to four recruits: Tuck (Kelsey Caesar), Moo (A-F-R-O), Cricket (Belle Guillory), and Q (Teon Kelley). The task is to break into and steal money from a rich lady’s house. However, the lady’s grandson, Bitch Ass, also known as Cecil (Tunde Laleye) still lives there. The recruits are in desperate need of financial aid, particularly Q, who dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor.


On 666 night, they break into the house through the creepy basement. Unbeknownst to them, a decrepit shed with horrors inside is right next to the house. As they walk through the house looking for money, they are picked off one by one to play twisted games with Bitch Ass. Moo is attacked in the basement and forced to play Operation on a dead body with its innards spread open. Cricket is caught and made to play Connect 4. When she loses, Bitch Ass makes her play a deadly game of Connect 4, and Tuck plays a potentially fatal game of Jenga. The audience is shown flashbacks to 1980 of Cecil’s abusive childhood that haunt him as he continues to hunt down those in his house of horrorifying children’s games. He’s traumatized by his past, leading him down a path of revenge.

Steven Parker's cinematography was one of the film's saving graces. The entire film is shot with a fish-eye lens with concave edges, creating a feeling of claustrophobia. Parker's game-like frames are a creative addition. Like a video game screen, the characters appear on the screen as cards with their faces on them. Each time Bitch Ass takes down a character, title cards are announced. Almost all of the game sequences featured dichotomous split screens, giving the audience different perspectives. A dissected shot occurs when Moo plays Operation. One shot shows Bitch Ass, one shows the opened corpse, and another portrays Moo's reaction to his current situation. As characters enter rooms, like in the board game Clue, rooms are labeled, adding a creative twist. The lighting was bland except for the intense red lighting in certain scenes. While the font is imaginative, I wanted to be scared, and seeing edited font in the rooms didn't scare me. The film’s cinematography nearly compensated for the lackluster performances.


The shining star of the film is Me’lisa Sellers’ performance as a mother wanting what’s best for her son. Raw emotions are shown through her, captivating me. Her fearlessness of danger and determination to save her son made me want to finish the film. The other performances were lacking and it seemed as though more time was focused on set production than direction. If Bitch Ass was given more dialogue and grunted less, the film would have felt more robust. Witty dialogue versus angry grunting is my preference for horror films. However, a satisfactory climax with tension building from Sellers and McKinney’s verbal sparring had me hooked.


BITCH ASS is at its core, a revenge film with gore, torture, and an obsessive fascination with games. Common horror tropes were incorporated such as a creepy house, tragic backstory, and torture devices but none of it added up to a truly gratifying experience. The takeaway is that a mother’s love will always endure. So, while there were wholesome moments, it was marginally unfulfilling as a horror film. The style was there but not the substance. I’ll leave you with this question: are you willing to play?


 



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