***1/2 (out of 5)
April 18, 2014
Mark Webber as ELLIOT
Devon Graye as MICHAEL
Tom Bower as FATHER
Rutina Wesley as SHELBY
Ron Perlman as CHILCOAT
Pruitt Taylor Vince as VOGLER
Directed by: Daniel Stamm
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a time when movies that received limited releases, or even straight-to-video releases, were easily substandard product. Today, this is less and less true. In fact, the home viewing capacity of today’s audience is quickly changing not just the way we see movies but the landscape of smaller releases.
Now, a release that might not be a massive hit in the mainstream has sudden viability on DVD and Blu-ray, and more importantly VOD platforms. Even if a film has a slim chance of being projected onto a large theater screen, the distribution model of getting that print out there and securing the screens around the country might be more trouble than it’s worth.
What results is a new breed of film that isn’t trying to fit into a mainstream mold. More niche entertainment and selective ideas can be brought to life in the filmed medium. If you’re lucky enough to live in a big city that gets pretty much ever movie that is released, or if you have the fortune of a nearby theater that caters to a more fringe crowd, you are lucky. If you are in this category, definitely make a point to see “13 Sins” on the big screen. It’s worth your time.
However, if you live farther away from the bigger cities and have no independent movie house option, the VOD platform to watch a film like “13 Sins” is still a viable option, and watching it on an HD widescreen television can approximate the cinematic experience as well.
In other words, this is one of the many great independent films out there that can be found in the fringe of genre filmmaking today that are worth watching.
“13 Sins” follows Elliot (Mark Webber) a down-on-his-luck man who has lost his job and is trying to find a way to support his pregnant girlfriend while also helping out his invalid father. Elliot gets a mysterious phone call, and the man on the other end challenges him to complete 13 acts. With each act comes a greater and greater deposit of money in his bank account. The final result will make him a millionaire, and if he refuses to do any of the challenges he will lose all money gained, so he has to face greater and greater moral decisions along the way.
From the onset, it’s clear that by the end of the 13 challenges, things aren’t going to be going well. They may start with killing a fly or eating it, but by the end, the audience can fully guess that his moral standing and overall humanity is going to be bent or broken in order to complete all the tasks.
In this sense, it’s easy for the viewer to say they’d never take the bait, and they’d be absolutely right. However, Elliot is simply too desperate, and if he didn’t take the bait, the movie would be about 13 minutes long.
“13 Sins” plays like a long-form episode of “The Twilight Zone,” which is the kind of story that I generally love. I’ve always enjoyed using speculative fiction as a meter by which to measure our own ethics. The movie puts the audience in the position to question what they’d be willing to do, and I think many of us would be shocked at which level our friends might bow out of this game.
That would be the danger of discussing the film with family and friends, I guess. That makes it a potentially brilliant piece of subversive filmmaking.
“13 Sins” is directed by Daniel Stamm, who made a splash with “The Last Exorcism” and also directed the more intimate but still intriguing “A Necessary Death.” Stamm manages to make smaller, more intimate thrillers without falling into cliche, and that’s great. I look forward to see what is next on his agenda.