A fairly average psychological horror that has some interesting threads that eventually come to a frayed end. It’s not something dramatically different from horror movies you’ve seen before but if you enjoy a building of shock and dread then this film is ticking those boxes with a big red pen.
’13 Sins’ uses the notion of a sadistic game as the main meat of this story and the rules of the game are not to let anyone know you’re playing and if you don’t complete all 13 tasks then you don’t win the money you’ve previously accumulated. Of course other rules enter the twisted mind of the game keeper later on but that’s for you to discover if you watch this film. The main fellow in question who gets gripped onto the game is Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) who has the chance to pick up money to help his debts, his mentally disabled brother and his fiance Shelby (Rutina Wesley) with the wedding of her dreams. Though of course his increasing worrying actions gain the attention of the police and the detective Chilcoat (Ron Perlman) who gets knowledge that this game could be wider than expected.
Opening up the movie is a neat little package in Australia concerning a toast and hall full of people who listen on in astonishment to an elderly man reciting rude limericks before going all out crazy. This pre credits scene lets a truly violent act come out the blue so apologies if I’ve now spoilt that surprise but I had to mention it to relate it to the rest of the plot. As when you see what he does you wonder what in hecks name is going on but soon as the movie itself begins you understand that this is the midst of the game taking place and now you don’t fear the man or see him as deranged but you grasp the idea of him being overwhelmed by the anonymous voice in charge of this game. It’s a world wide game with financial profit that has apparently gone on for years which makes no sense as how did the people of years before mobiles and computers get watched all the time? Odd. The main problem I had with this film is in the latter stages of the plot.
Nearing the end it starts really ramping up in feats of violence for Elliot to undertake which works for the horror genre but not for his character who is meaning to transform but does so unconvincingly. There’s times when he’s addicted and revelling in smacking chairs over people or being suddenly cool and confident at a wedding rehearsal but then other times he’s that wreck again. The end just started getting silly as the game expanded and the secrets of the idea unravelled to shed light on family traumas. How many people are playing this game for crying out loud?! It just got out of control sadly after a well contained tense and interesting first quarter/half of the running time.
The earlier stages are really good I thought, the shadowy unseen voice being mysterious and goading on the phone made for a chilling presence and the first few acts pull you in as you feel this world of pain clouding over. The third task involving a small girl and the darkly funny scene involving taking an unwilling man for coffee are really fantastic and create this suspenseful sadistic tone which gets lost when the bigger grander tasks come into fruition and blood replaces brain. Also the thirteenth task is of no huge surprise, even if a nicely unexpected twist did catch me off guard the final act itself is obvious, or at least the lines it goes along is of no real shock.
I didn’t mind this film as I do like watching horrors, though the lack of smart horror films now is a shame, suspense or dramatic fear is nearly always shoved aside for splats of gore and this film is not really any different. Also apart from those few beginning cool aspects there is no intelligence, you never know how Elliot and the others are being forever surveyed and Elliot doesn’t even finish one of the tasks yet somehow he gets away with that and goes onto round 13. It’s like a controlling tech threat akin to Jigsaw in the ‘Saw’ franchise that this seems to resemble but never gains the heights of that fresh horrific clever lightbulb moment. It’s not great but it certainly isn’t awful, you can be a tad hooked by the unravelling actions of this plot even if the ending isn’t as great as you want it to be.
It’s grim, it’s full of blood and mindless shock but at least there’s an opening segment of the movie that is engaging and interesting before all out violence and underwhelming turns take over.