Starring: Mark Webber, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Ron Pearlman, Rutina Wesley, and Pruitt Taylor Vince
Director: Daniel Stamm
Running time: 92 minutes
It's clear that Stamm is using the film as an audition for Hollywood, throwing everything he's got at this one.
The film tells the story of Elliot (Mark Webber), a salesman who has just lost his job and has a mountain of debt. His fiancee Shelby (Rutina Wesley) is pregnant and his little brother Michael (Devon Graye) is mentally challenged and could potentially be put in psychiatric care, away from the family.
While driving and stopped at a traffic light, Elliot gets a phone call from an ominous voice claiming to be part of a ‘game show’ who asks our protagonist if he wants to play, with US$6 million on the line. The catch? Elliot has to perform a set of 13 tasks, each one more difficult, gruesome, and much more criminal than the last. If he does not complete all 13, then he loses everything.
As local film fans will be aware, this is a remake of the 2006 Thai film 13 Beloved. Webber, a longtime actor who has largely been a background character up until this point, is finally put in the driver seat and shines in this. He is more than believable as a down-and-out loser who suddenly rides a wave that sees him shuffle between hero and villain, sometimes at the same time.
The first task has Elliot kill a fly and then eat it, which nets him US$1,000 in an account in his name, but from here on out things become much worse than an episode of Fear Factor. The tasks eventually get the attention of the authorities, mainly Chilcoat (Ron Pearlman), a detective who is bent on bringing Elliot to justice for all the acts he performs in the film – until he finds out what forces are at work.
13 Sins is as much a mystery as it is horror, but much more graphic than any thriller out so far this year. The audience will be taken aback by some of the gruesome scenes, including one memorable part that includes motorcycles and is a throwback to 2013's The Counselor (you have to see it to believe it).
While it's not a great film, 13 Sins is highly entertaining and includes plot twists that were not in the original source movie. It's a horror film that, because it was done outside of the the Hollywood system, had a fresh take on the genre with subtle nuances that straddle the line between gritty and noir.
All in all, it’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes – sorry, hold that thought, my phone’s ringing. What? Six million? Sure I’m interested...