13 Sins was the headliner for SXSW’s midnight screeners. Those are the late night horror/thriller films that everyone stays up late to check out. As such I figured it was going to be something a bit special. Hell, it had Ron Perlman in it. That instantly makes it something special. It was also a remake of a pretty taught Thai film that delivered on tension and creativity.
Sadly 13 Sins only thinks it’s special. With a storyline that’s been played out too often and not enough fresh ideas to play it out again. Caught somewhere between a thriller and a slasher its identity gets lost in its own weird game of trying to surprise the audience.
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Director: Daniel Stamm
Release Date: April 14, 2014
Mark Webber stars as a down on his luck salesman whose life is going out of control after he loses his job and his racist father wants to move back in with him, his pregnant wife and his mentally challenged brother. Then a phone call comes him offering money to complete a challenge. The more challenges he completes the more money he can make. They start off innocent enough (killing a fly), but start to escalate from there as the film tries to address just how far someone will go to save their own skin.
The what would you do concept is as old as dirt and unfortunately 13 Sins doesn’t add much to it. The general concept behind this version is that there is a secret organization that has been running this game for hundreds of years, seeing how far human beings will go just for fun. It could be interesting, but 13 Sins squanders it by feeling mostly pedantic throughout. While director Daniel Stamm keeps things moving well enough the movie never elevates into true tension. Even when the situations Webber finds himself in push into absurdity and Stamm smartly veers the tone of the movie into a sort of surrealistic slant its not enough to really pull you into the entire concept.
The issues really arise when the film starts to deliver its twist and turns, thinking its far more clever than it actually is. The film’s unfolding plot isn’t constructed well enough to truly deliver a great ending and the character development, especially Perlman’s, leads to an ending that’s more disappointing than a revelation. Even with Perlman and Webber delivering strong performances there’s just no hook to grab you and make the film special.
While the move does have some visually striking moments, and a fantastic mobed kill to push it into slasher territory it can’t put its interesting pieces together into something that thrills or scares. Even the sociological ideas behind the film don’t present themselves strong enough, especially as the too sappy ending crashes much of what the film has tried to establish about how far we as humans will go when pushed. It’s a tepid attempt to say something that has some of the right ideas, but none of the right execution.