SXSW Film Review – 13 Sins
13 Sins is a new horror/thriller film from Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism). Based off a Thai film called 13: Game of Death, the film centers on a game that involves completing thirteen tasks or challenges. Each completed challenge gives the contestant a larger sum of cash than the one before, but if you don’t complete a challenge or decide to not do it at all, you forfeit all the money won so far. It is like Deal or No Deal with a sick, twisted spin. The main character, Elliot (Mark Webber), is down on his luck. He just got fired, is engaged to be married to his expecting girlfriend, takes care of his disabled brother, and his father is about to be kicked out of his home. Basically, shit has hit the fan for Elliot and he cannot catch a break. On his way home, a cell phone with a distinctive ring tone starts ringing in his car. Unbeknownst to him, his game has begun.
Going into 13 Sins, I was expecting a lot of gore and violence. It does not hit that horror film level until the last third of the film. The first two-thirds are about establishing the game and the character of Elliot, those around him, and his motivations for doing the game. I was a bit relieved to not be fully immersed in all out horror film gore until later in the film, and when it does hit, it does so in a spectacularly gruesome fashion.
The only way I can describe 13 Sins is that it is like Saw, but with less gore and the game does not include you chopping off your own limbs or you die. It is tamer, but it deals with morality and how far you are willing to go for some money.
This film also has a very indie feel to it. It was made on a pretty low budget. The most high-budget looking element in it would be the opening credits which establish the icon of the game and how far back in time the game has existed. While this might be an indie horror film, it has quite a few recognizable actors. Mark Webber (For a Good Time, Call . . ., Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) has had many supporting roles in films, but this is his first starring role. Rutina Wesley (True Blood) plays Elliot’s girlfriend. Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) plays a police detective, and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Constantine, Deadwood) is a conspiracy theorist on the game. However, something about the acting did not click. It feels like each actor was playing their character, but almost independent of all the other characters. It might be that the chemistry was off or there were not enough takes of a scene to get things right.
13 Sins is an okay horror film that turns into a cringe-worthy horror film towards the end, both because of blood and gore and the acting. This is definitely an independent film that probably would have turned out a bit better with more time and money. It is a good concept that becomes rushed towards the end. However, the film does not delve into the horror elements right away which gives a viewer time to learn the game and the characters.
(I am not a horror film fan. So please take this review as someone not fully invested in the genre and probably not as critical as someone well-versed in every major horror film ever made.)
Also, be sure to check out our interview with actor Ron Perlman and director Daniel Stamm at SXSW 2014.[vimeo 86347183 w=630&h=354]