I hadn’t intended a marathon of director Daniel Stamm‘s filmography when I decided to watch The Last Exorcism and 13 Sins back-to-back. In-fact, while I had chosen to watch The Last Exorcism, it was my fiancee who plucked out 13 Sins from off Netflix. Call it a happy accident (which are the best accidents, I’d say).
Although 13 Sins came out four years after Daniel Stamm’s successful found-footage horror, it has not had as many eyes on it, receiving a limited theatrical release after its on-demand debut. The film acts as a remake of the 2006 Thai comedy horror film 13 Beloved and was the final film George Coe starred in before his death in 2015.
The film stars a few familiar faces in the horror genre – primarily, Mark Webber (who can be seen in genre fare like Green Room and Antibirth, but I know him best as “not Mark from Freddy vs. Jason) and Devon Graye (which I had no idea before writing this, was actually younger Dexter in … Dexter). Ron Perlman (Hellboy) is also in it.
The film is about a man named Elliot (that’s not Mark from Freddy vs. Jason). What you have to understand about Elliot is that he is a nice person, but timid and easily pushed around. A lot of people take advantage of his kindness – his father is an awful person who spouts off racial slurs like they are going out of style (which they are, … I hope) and his employer who fires him on unfair grounds. His unemployment sends his entire life into a whirlwind. His brother (that’s young Dexter), you see, is mentally handicapped, and without proper insurance to care for his needs, the state will move him into a home. Meanwhile, his fiancee is with child.
Thus, when Elliot is offered the chance to make a lot of money, he takes advantage of the opportunity. A mysterious caller instructs and baits him into accomplishing thirteen tasks, with the objectives gradually becoming more dangerous. This can vary from petty crimes like keying a person’s car to more severe crimes like keying a person’s face. If you complete all thirteen tasks then you will receive riches and have your criminal-record wiped clean, but if you fail or quit, you will be left on your own and forfeit all the money earned. Meanwhile, a Detective (that’s Hellboy) is investigating the crimes committed and their pattern.
I don’t know about you – but I love game or game-related horror films, and I don’t think I am alone in this either. I think this is a lot of the reason why the Saw series has sustained popularity all these years and I think it is why films like Escape Room have flourished at the worldwide box office. I will admit that most of them fail to scratch the particular itch I am looking for, and part of that reason might be because I myself am not even certain what that itch actually is.
This film doesn’t deflect a lot of the problems that plague other high concept films nor does it reinvent the wheel in-terms of its execution. However, 13 Sins is a fun film and I would argue that it is among the better of the films like it.
The portrayal of Elliot’s sad-sack life feels very over-the-top, like something out of a comic-book about a guy who’s down on his luck before discovering he has superpowers, but I feel that the concept coupled in with Mark Webber’s performance creates a certain charm. It feels light-heart and tongue-and-cheek at times, with the “caller” goading Elliot into doing things he is apprehensive about, and Elliot building confidence for himself as he becomes more experienced.
Everything doesn’t always work with the utmost cohesion; juggling serious subject-matter with suspension of disbelief. A lot of it will depend on your personal preference in-terms of what jives and what doesn’t. It is a black comedy throughout, expecting you to laugh at outrageous cruelties and cringe when Elliot has to do something embarrassing or awful. For the most part, I would say I was entertained.
The aspects that don’t succeed about the film aren’t unlike a lot of the films like it. For instance, when it comes time to establish the evil masterminds at work, the film feels very samey and familiar, with a payoff that is lightweight, albeit satisfying. Then, there’s, of course, the simple fact we’ve seen the concept in other films and this one doesn’t breathe any newness to it except in realigning the characters and predicaments.
13 Sins feels like a remix of an idea we have seen many times prior to it, but it does so with entertaining, satisfying results. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Although I don’t feel like it is a film you need to absolutely go out of your way to see, I do recommend it, especially with how miss a lot of high-concept horror can be.