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13 Sins (2014)
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/17/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/17/2014
I don't think that anyone would argue with me if I said that The Twilight Zone was one of the most influential components of entertainment in the 20th century. From it's trademark twist endings to its blending of science-fiction and horror to its ability to make everyday life very surreal, the series set the standard for creative storytelling. So, this raises the question -- Why don't wee see more Twilight Zone inspired projects these days? Has this sort of project fallen out of vogue? Have audiences tired of these kinds of stories? The thriller 13 Sins attempts to revive the genre while adding many modern flares.
Elliot Brindle (Mark Webber) is a man who is down on his luck. He has just lost his job, which means that he may have to adjust his plans to marry Shelby (Rutina Wesley). His father (Tom Bower) is in jeopardy of being kicked out of his residence and Elliot is charged with looking after his brother, Michael (Devon Graye), who has a history of mental disorders. Amidst this chaos, Elliot gets a phone call and the mysterious voice on the other end tells him that he's been chosen to play a game -- If Elliot completes 13 tasks, he could win millions of dollars. Obviously, Elliot is skeptical at first, but when two simple tasks result in immediate deposits into his bank account, he decides to keep going. But, the requirements begin to become more and more macabre and dangerous, and the Elliot realizes that the caller knows very intimate details of his life. Should Elliot finish and get the money?
First things first -- The actor playing Elliot is the guy who played Stephen Stills in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It doesn't look or sound anything like him, but that's him. OK, back to the review.
13 Sins is based on a Thai movie which was released in the U.S. as 13: Game of Death. I have not seen that movie, so I can't compare the two, but I can say that at first glance, 13 Sins doesn't look very original...even for a remake. The desperate man has been seen in any number of stories. The challenges feel like something from a reality show (granted a truly twisted reality show). Actually, the phone calls and the race against time reminded me of Die Hard With a Vengeance. The level of violence which is depicted at times feels like a nod to the Saw movies. The overall picture sounds like a movie that you've seen before.
However, Director/Co-Writer Daniel Stamm shows that he knows how to tell a story, as the film is compelling in the beginning. Elliot could easily be a sad-sack, unlikable character, but Webber is able to lend him enough pathos to make him tolerable. The first few challenges send Elliot's way are simple enough (although one is slightly gross), but we know that things are going to get wacky (otherwise, this wouldn't be much of a movie). This helps to overcome the somewhat pedestrian plot and draw the viewer into the film. And as the challenges get more...challenging...we wait to see if Elliot will keep going or give up.
But, 13 Sins can't maintain this pace and the film slowly begins to go off of the rails. The film can't decide what it wants to be, as it is gritty, but some dark humor begins to seep in, and it doesn't always work. The movie seems to redeem itself with the motorcycle gang sequence, but things completely fall apart during the finale. The ending offers two twists -- one which makes sense and is well done and one which makes no sense at all and really puts the final nail into the film.
Stamm's 2010 The Last Exorcism was one of the better of the mediocre found-footage horror films, but 13 Sins doesn't really show much growth for him. It's not a terrible movie, it just runs of out gas and leaves the viewer feeling unsatisfied. Ironically, the longer version of the ending, which is available on this Blu-ray Disc, actually brings the Twilight Zone idea home and would have done a much better job of salvaging things. As it stands, 13 Sins is good for a rental, but don't accept the challenge to do much more.
13 Sins shows the benefits of direct deposit on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing just a hint of grain and no defects from the source materials. The image is never overly dark or bright (although it gets close to dark in some shots), and the colors look fine. The depth and level of detail are about what we would expect from a modern film on Blu-ray. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done and really stand out during the street scenes, as cars pass by. The surround sound effects are lively and add emphasis to the aforementioned motorcycle scene. Subwoofer effects lend "oomph" to the musical cues.
The 13 Sins Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Co-Writer/Director Daniel Stamm, Mark Webber, Ron Perlman, and Devon Graye. "The Making of 13 Sins" (9 minutes) is a featurette where we learn that the project was originally known as "Angry Little God". Here we get comments from Stamm and the cast who talk about how they become involved in the film and the movie's story. The piece also examines the look of the film and the special effects. The Disc offers a "Deleted Sequence" which runs about 6 minutes and involves a totally new scene which brings a new tone to the film. We also get an "Alternate Ending" (2 minutes) which really plays up the Twilight Zone paranoia aspect of the film and actually works. "Anatomy of a Meltdown" (3 minutes) shows an awkward conversation with Stamm and Writer David Birke.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long