13 Sins (2014)
(15) Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Daniel Stamm
Writers: David Birke, Daniel Stamm
Cast: Mark Webber, Ron Perlman, Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Daniel Stamm showed immense promise as a horror director with his superb found footage exorcism feature, The Last Exorcism. While I am not always one to agree with remakes, Stamm’s involvement here is what got me excited, and being a big fan of the Thai original (13: Game of Death, directed by Chukiat Sakveerakul) I had been looking forward to 13 Sins for some time.
The original Thai film may not be all that well known, but hopefully this remake will lead audiences to seek out the much superior version, but there is a lot of fun to be had with 13 Sins, although I did find the film slightly mixed in what it was trying to be.
The premise is simple: Elliot (Mark Webber) is down on his luck, he’s been fired from his job for being too weak, he is due to get married to a black girl named Shelby (Rutina Wesley) but his racist Father (Tom Bower) has been kicked out of his care home and has come to live with them, and to top it all off the loss of his job means he cannot afford the bills to look after his disabled brother Michael (Devon Graye). While sat in his car about to explode with stress, Elliot receives a mysterious phone call from a game show host, offering him a large sum of money if he can kill the fly buzzing around his car.
Elliot kills the fly, and a thousand dollars appears in his bank account. He is then told he has to complete a further twelve tasks, each offering more money, and the only rules are: don’t tell anyone you are taking part, and if you pull out you will lose everything. Simple enough, so the second task is to eat the fly!
Naturally, as the film progresses, so the tasks become more and more violent, and Elliot comes across obstacles and choices which are all driven by the need for this money. The film moves along a breakneck speed as Elliot goes about destroying a wedding, scaring children and committing arson. The police soon get wind of a man terrorising the city, and at twenty six minutes into the film the whole feature receives a mighty boost of brilliance: welcome Ron Perlman as Detective Chilcoat, and he begins trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.
The original film was totally insane, and relished its macabre ideas and progressing violence, with the lead character screaming a lot and becoming more and more unhinged. The Thai film had that Asian madness about it, and it made the film chaotic and totally bonkers. Stamm has tried to achieve that here, with Webber delivering a great performance as Elliot. Once the tasks take over and he begins to enjoy himself, there is a devilish gleam in his eyes, and his chilling smile shows a man who has clearly gone over the edge, and is loving every minute.
However, where the original blended comedy with insane violence, this remake struggles with which genre to use best. The set up here is much more humanised than the original, and the first half is filled with plenty of serious emotional family moments, so to begin with this feels like a serious take on the source material, but as the film moves into black comedy territory things begin to go wrong. The comedy doesn’t quite hit the right notes here, and while at one minute you are feeling sorry for Elliot, it may be fun, but I found it difficult to sympathize as he got deeper and deeper into the game. The tasks themselves start to become a little too easy to participate in, and the sense of doing something wrong but starting to enjoy it is lost, something whic the original created so well.
Saying that though, the performances are all top notch, and Perlman especially is always an immense presence. The violence increases and becomes quite horrific as the film moves towards its climax, and Stamm once again shows he is a director with some serious talent. The film moves quickly and frantically, so you will not find time to really get bored, and the final twist is well executed and fairly strong. A little less of the drama and family morals, and a bit more insanity and this could have been excellent. Sadly, it is a standard horror thriller which will be instantly forgettable, and lacks the madness of the original.
A good effort from all involved, and a difficult film to remake, but my advice is check out the original, it is much better.