If ever a movie presented a strong case for reviewers being able to award negative stars in terms of a rating, Bobb Hopkins’ The 13th Alley is that film. Mr. Hopkins heads up a company called Super Chief Films, so named for the famous passenger train that ran from Los Angeles to Chicago. But for whatever reason, Hopkins’ logo pictures a freight train—a bit of woolly-headedness that perfectly sets the tone for his apparent attempt to make the worst film of all time. He may have succeeded.
With The 13th Alley, we find ourselves confronted with that most dubious of horror subgenres, the slasher picture. In other words, the film sets up a situation in which a lot of dumb teenagers are sliced and diced by some unknown madman. Hopkins plumbs new depths with the stupefying idea that the victims are trapped inside a bowling alley—with glass doors. It’s also a bowling alley with some kind of urban-legend history involving killings on the—wait for it—13th alley. Yes, of course, heads were used for bowling balls. And yes, yes, yes, the killings were never solved. Will history repeat itself?
Actually, it matters not at all whether history repeats itself, since the earlier killings don’t seem to have any particular relevance. The film’s story focuses on the kids being possibly terrorized and maybe murdered by either the bowling alley’s religious loon staff electrician, Hal (Robert Carradine), or the antireligious (but equally loony) janitor, Zeke (played by Hopkins himself). Hal wants to punish them for the mortal sin of “strip bowling,” while Zeke is apparently just homicidally irritable.
The terrorizing takes the form of the leads being beleaguered by gory animatronic dogs, cats and crows as they go about their daily business. Since Hal handles the wiring at the bowling alley, it’s deemed that it would be a simple matter for him to create remote-control animals—a line of reasoning that should make you think twice about having one of those diabolically fiendish electricians in your home. Of course, this is merely the overture to the orgy of murder to come. Alas, as orgies of murder go, this one’s more like a junior-high petting party.
To fully appreciate the rampant inanity on display here, it’s necessary to give away the “shocking revelations” of the plot. So in case you are planning to see the film and want to try to bamboozle yourself into being surprised, skip to the next paragraph. OK, so the fact that both Hal and Zeke are red herrings is no great shock, nor is the identity of the real killer, but the film’s true surprise is of another nature altogether. Remember the old trick where a film paints itself into a corner and gets out by concluding, “It was all just a dream”? Believe it or not, Hopkins has brought it back and one-upped it to arrive at “It was all just a hypnotic trance.” Not content with this triumph, he then grafts on an utterly meaningless Carrie moment after the fact before mercifully giving up.
Just why this movie has been given theatrical exposure is a mystery that would have to be taken up with the corporate heads of the theater chain that booked it. The apparent draw is the presence of Shayne Lamas—daughter of Lorenzo Lamas, granddaughter of Fernando Lamas and media personality thanks to the reality TV show The Bachelor (kind of like The Dating Game, but with—never seen—test-drive sex). I’m skeptical, especially since Ms. Lamas’ lack of acting ability is overshadowed only by the fact that she’s singularly bereft of charisma. And since neither she nor her companions in meat-on-the-hoof victimdom ever strip down beyond the underwear-catalog stage, the film would seem to be of most interest to Robert Carradine completists. Last known, those six people were too involved in a letter-writing campaign to get Revenge of the Nerds V off the ground to notice the release of The 13th Alley. Rated R for language, horror violence and some sexual material.