Monday, April 14, 2014

Money, honey! There's some smart, fast, inspired horror in Daniel Stamm's wicked little 13 SINS

What fun is this! Fun, at least,  for horror aficionados who are growing increasingly tired of the typical and predictable stuff this genre keeps tossing at us. (Really: Enough of the "paranormal" crap.) 13 SINS, the new film co-written (with David Birke) and directed by Daniel Stamm (below, of The Last Exorcism) has a set-up and follow-through that's a notch or ten above the usual shlock. The movie grabs you from scene one -- which seems to have little to do with what follows, but of course absolutely does -- and never lets go.

Our hero, a would-be salesman named Elliot (the very empathetic Mark Webber), shown below -- about to be married and suddenly unemployed (because he doesn't have the "killer instinct" he needs order to sell folk insurance policies that they don't need) -- is very much the sweet, kind, little-bit nerdy fellow audiences will bond with immediately. Elliot is saddled with a somewhat nasty father who is failing, healthwise, and a younger brother who is mentally challenged and may soon be placed in a state-run home. Money is, as ever these days, greatly needed but instead seems to be quickly disappearing from Elliot's life -- when a surprise phone call comes in on our hero's cell.

This phone call turns the next couple of days of Elliot's life into sheer hell (or maybe it all happens within 24 hours: this movie moves fast), as our boy is promised some amazing money if he will just complete 13 tasks, beginning with "Kill that fly that's buzzing around inside your car." He does, and when he checks his bank balance, there's an additional thousand dollars at the ready.

Of course these "tasks" grow more difficult, spiraling out into the greater world in bizarre ways, and involving everything from a cute little girl (above) to a nativity creche and a corpse with a cup of coffee. Who are the people arranging this crazy scheme? 13 Sins plays it very close to the vest regarding the powers that are behind this game, but as my spouse pointed out early on, "This makes a good metaphor for capitalism."

If that doesn't ruin the film and its fun for a Republican audience, I'll just add that the movie does get plenty gory as it goes along, especially so when it brings together our hero with a fellow (Donny Boaz, above) who used to bully him in high school.

The game itself grows much more complicated, as does our understanding of exactly who is playing it. Family matters come to the fore with Dad (Tom Bower, above) and brother (Devon Graye, below), and by the finale, you may have to remind yourself to take a breath.

My hat is off to filmmaker Stamm, who does a sterling job of bringing it all together in the space of just 88 minutes, using the growing gravitas of Ron Perlman (below, left) in the role of the local cop and the ever-weighty Pruitt Taylor Vince (below, right), as a fellow who is building a file on these "gamesters."

Finally, the schemers even involve our boy's lovely fiancé (Rutina Wesley, below), who brings a smart, no-nonsense approach to her performance -- which carries over quite wonderfully to the film itself.

With so many movies in this genre, you're annoyed not to have certain things explained more fully and believably. I don't think that will present itself here; even if it does, you'll hardly have time to acknowledge it.

13 Sins, from Radius/TWC, arrives in theaters this Friday, April 18, and it's already playing via VOD. Click here to learn at which theaters you can see it. Just enter you zip code and then click on TICKETS AND SHOWTIMES, or click on the WATCH button under ON-DEMAND to learn where you can find the movie via VOD.

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