SXSW 2014: 13 SINS Review


Film Pulse Score

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Release Date: April 18, 2014 (Limited)
Director: MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 6/10

Based on the 2006 Thai film 13: Game of Death, Daniel Stamm’s 13 Sins proves to be an entertaining remake that improves upon the original in several ways, but still doesn’t bring much more to the table than a passable thriller.  The violence is brutal and the twists are clever and unexpected, but there’s a certain amount of acceptance required to believe what’s happening on screen.

The film stars Mark Webber as a down on his luck guy who is about to get married, has a kid on the way, is taking care of his mentally handicapped brother, must take him his racist bastard of a father, and just lost his job.  Just when things seem to be at their worst he gets a mysterious phone call from a man saying he’s been selected to play a game that could potentially make him rich.  In order to win, he must complete 13 different challenges starting with simply killing a fly buzzing around his car.  For the second challenge he must then eat that fly.  As he progresses the challenges become more difficult and increasingly more risky.

The concept of the film is an interesting one, at least in 2006 when the original was released.  Now, with so many movies based around this concept like Cheap Thrills coming out, it’s starting to feel tired.  That doesn’t mean that this was any less entertaining of a watch however.  Even though I saw the original years ago, I still found myself excited to see what horrific challenge was up next.  Pull a Weekend at Bernie’s and take a corpse for a cup of coffee?  Didn’t see that one coming.  And that’s the fun part about 13 Sins, the challenges are inventive and crazy.

Like the original, there’s also a twisted humor that runs underneath much of the film.  Although many of the tasks are horrific, a lot of them are simply designed to confuse and humiliate the contestant, which does spark some awkward laughter.  Webber as the timid stand up guy is perfectly suited for the role and the humor it evokes.

The less impressive aspects of 13 Sins come in the way of the organization that creates the game in the first place.  We never find out anything about them at all, and yet they seem to always be omnipresent and watching everything going on.  I didn’t need to see who was pulling the strings, but a little more explanation might have made the film feel more fully realized.  There’s also a slightly less than impressive message behind the game that the creators are trying to teach the contestants, but it seems pointless and confusing when you factor in the other people involved.

13 Sins is a relatively mindless and fun thriller that brings little to the table, but does a solid job of achieving what it sets out to do.  This isn’t nearly on the same level as Stamm’s previous film, The Last Exorcism, but it’s definitely enough for me to come back for his next project.

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