13 Sins – Dead By Dawn 2014

DbD 2014Festival Coverage

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Daniel Stamm’s 13 Sins, a remake of Thai film 13: Game of Death, is the disturbing tale of one man’s descent into crime and degradation. After receiving a mysterious phone call, debt-ridden Elliot Brindle (Marc Webber) is set on a path to riches, all he has to do is complete a bizarre series of tasks. As he desperately races through the increasingly disturbing tasks, earning larger and larger sums of money, the shady organization behind the “game” watch closely, egging him on.
From the outset the film is in good hands, great direction and a fairly solid script make for pleasing viewing. Throw in the fantastic Marc Webber as a slowly crumbling wimp, Rutina Wesley as his bamboozled fiancé, Tom Bower as his hilariously dour father, and Ron Pearlman as the detective on his trail, and you’ve got a damn fine cast. Everyone seems to appreciate the near-ridiculous nature of a script so unabashedly brutal and dry it’s hard to know how to react. But that’s the nature of 13 Sins, it’s a film that delivers slices of so many tones that it’s not really a horror or a black comedy or a thriller, but it’s somewhere in there.

As a whole, the film itself is an enjoyable little ride to the dark side but on closer inspection this mix of vibes could be a problem. The lack of truly gruelling content, especially in the current cinematic climate, makes the “darker” parts of the script seem a little naive. In the post-Serbian Film world, nothing will ever quite achieve dare-horror the same way again. It’s a shame but time is unfortunately up for those who aim to shock but shy away from the 18 certificate.

Saying that, there’s plenty here to keep you interested. An early skit queued by the instruction ‘Make a child cry’, a corpse-walk, dismemberment, vandalism, each sin is different from the last and poses interesting questions about the nature of crime itself. The film’s humour is arguably more predominant than anything else, keeping the tone within the boundaries of black comedy and only briefly allowing moments of true despair to catch on. The effect is that, though Webber is a fantastic guide and a total pleasure to watch, the audience will find it difficult to understand the “Hell” he has been through.

By the final curtain you won’t help but feel that the whole affair was perhaps a little too vanilla in its choice of degrading tasks. On the other hand, the sins are executed with such unabashed zeal that it seems picky to bitch about their lack of mind-melting shock factor. The hasty attempts to tie renegade plot points in the final 20 minutes are a far more concrete source of displeasure, making an otherwise speedy and smart affair seem a little dull and silly.

Even if the ending is a bit wobbly, 13 Sins is still energetic, funny, but most of all thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Stamm has breathed life into an increasingly tired idea, putting his own stamp on it and ensuring the film is not “just another remake”.



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