If you were to die an unfortunate death in an alley somewhere, it would be far less painful than sitting through this movie.
The IMDb description of The Alley gave the impression that this Indy film might be an undiscovered treasure. However it was little more than an overdressed after school special, loaded with hammy performances, bad set locations, poor casting choices and an awful script written and directed Jeff Hathcock, who may want to consider a new line of work.
Nick Andrews (Nick Slimmer) is The Alley’s modern day Boy who Cried Wolf. He has told so many whoppers that no one, except his gullible sister Amy (Madison Fitzgibbons), believes him when one of his wild tales actually turns out to be true. One night when Nick was supposed to be home watching his younger sister, he ventures out on his bike only to witness the murder of a young woman in the alley near his home. Nick gets a good look at the murderer’s face, unfortunately for Nick, the killer also gets a good look at him as well. So Nick high tails it out of that alley and runs to the supposed safety of his home. In the rush to escape, he leaves his bike, which has his name and address printed neatly on the tag, behind. Now the hunt is on. Will the authorities believe Nick’s tale? Will his mother stop yelling at him? Will the killer be caught? Will you even care by the time this thing grinds to a halt? I can answer that last question with a big fat NO! I conclude that you won’t give a rats patooty by the time this 88 minutes has mercifully come to an end.
How do I dislike The Alley? Let me count the ways. It is so bad in fact, I would compare the acting ability to the performances in that cult favorite Troll 2, but without the personality. I think everyone in The Alley excels in projecting their voices, however in every other category that matters they fail miserably. Projector-in-chief would be Coralyn Kelly, who plays Nick and Amy’s mother; she says her lines as if she believes the louder she shouts the more convincing she becomes as an actress. Nick, who is the focal point of the movie unfortunately doesn’t have the skills to carry a film even as bad as The Alley. He and his onscreen sister Amy may have the chops to satisfy the audience of a middle school production, but both performances fall flat in a motion picture. Every scene they’re in is fraught with overly exaggerated facial expressions, while each spoken line of dialogue is said as if they’re reading the script off of cue cards.
Then there’s the killer (Shannon Holzer), who bears a striking resemblance to Gary Sinise, but whose acting abilities unfortunately doesn’t resemble Sinise’s in the least bit. The killer spends the entire movie with a forced scowl permanently etched onto his face. I think it’s meant to look menacing but it only makes him looks as if he’s racking his brain to remember each tortured line of dialogue. We get to follow in the murderer’s footsteps throughout the film to find out what makes him tick. But all this did was highlight the fact that nothing in this movie was believable, including the rage that supposedly made the killer snap and take a woman’s life. Rounding out the ensemble cast are three hapless detectives that Nick enlists to help him bring the murderer to justice. Talk about suspending belief for 88 minutes, from the clichéd police lingo, to the awkward way in which they held their guns, it was as if they had never seen such a strange contraption. It makes one wonder if these gentlemen didn’t simply stumble onto the set from the local hardware store and were hired on the spot. Nothing against employees of hardware stores, but they don’t necessarily make good actors. Detectives headquarters appeared to be located in your run of the mill office building, replete with carpeted floors, fancy conference rooms and tiny cubicles sprinkled all about. It was as if the location scouts rented out the offices of a local business, then hired all the essential personnel to play a part in the money-challenged project.
Written and directed by Jeff Hathcock, The Alley is a good premise gone bad, an intriguing idea poorly executed. I understand that Hathcock heads a small independent film company called Iron Horse Entertainment and has to compete in a town full of behemoth movie studios, so kudos to him and his team for giving it the old college try. However, it isn’t the limited funds that make The Alley bad, when it comes right down to it, it’s simply bad acting piled on top of poor writing that makes this movie such a hot mess. The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity were two independent movies that were very skillfully done on a shoestring budget, so there’s precedent that it can be done and done well. Hathcock has years of experience in the movie business as do his partners, one being Shannon Holzer who portrayed the killer in The Alley. Unfortunately this film doesn’t seem as if it was made by a seasoned veteran, instead it has all the drawbacks that would befall a novice filmmaker on his first attempt at helming a motion picture.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one unintentional gem in the pyrite that is The Alley, and that gem would be Pamela, the tough no-nonsense babysitter, played by Virginia Gilbert. Believe me she isn’t any kind of acting genius, on the contrary, Pamela the babysitter was positively awfulrific (Sort of awful and terrific all at the same time. I made that up just in case you were wondering.) but she was oh so fun to watch. This gal plans on keeping Nick and his sister in line and we know she means business with every shrieked line of dialogue and every unnatural facial convulsion known to man. She tries so hard, bless her heart, to convey to us just what a tough cookie she is. Dressed like she just came from gym class, Pamela gets to ham it up on screen for a good 15 minutes, probably the most enjoyable 15 minutes in the whole movie.
The visual quality of The Alley looks as if it had been shot on video tape giving it the appearance of a daytime soap opera. While the audio isn’t as bad as the video, it is hampered by a schizophrenic soundtrack that bounces back and forth between the light hearted sounds of a summer carnival and the wah wah guitar tones that seem more appropriate in an adult movie, not in a film built as a thriller. The video aspect ratio is 4:3, while the audio is presented in stereo.
The one positive to take away from The Alley, is that this small company has an opportunity to make movies in a place as cutthroat as Hollywood; movies that aren’t just reboots of the same old ideas. The plot about a little boy who lies so much that its hard for him to convince people that he truly witnessed a horrible murder is refreshing in a town caught up in the latest wave of superhero flicks. It is good to know that there are studios who want to produce films about people without the need for 3D or lavish special effects. I just wish The Alley had the wherewithal to have taken a good idea and transfer it to the screen, unfortunately something got lost in the translation and all we were left with was a film that showed its flaws all too clearly.
All in all, The Alley has too many problems to overcome and ends up being nothing more than a muddled mess that isn’t worth wading through. I understand that movie making isn’t an easy gig, but audiences today are just too savvy to fall for a movie that looks as if it were put together in a high school AV class.
I find The Alley guilty of taking a good idea and ruining it. I sentence it to solitary confinement for the rest of its natural born life.
The Alley (DVD)
2011, Iron Horse Entertainment, 88 minutes, NR (2010)
VIDEO: 1.33:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH)
EXTRAS: Interview, Featurettes ACCOMPLICES: IMDB