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SXSW 2014 Review: 13 Sins
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

13 Sins SXSW banner

13 Sins
Director: Daniel Stamm
Cast: Mark Webber, Rutina Wesley, Devon Graye, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Richard Burgi, Tom Bower, Ron Perlman
Automatik Entertainment
Not Rated | 88 Minutes
Release Date: March 7, 2014

Directed by Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism), 13 Sins stars Mark Webber (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as Elliot, a down-on-his-luck salesman who is having the worst day of his life.

Expecting a promotion, Elliot is fired by his ball-busting boss and loses the insurance coverage needed to keep his handicapped brother and estranged father afloat.

Drowning in debt and responsibilities with a pregnant fiancé (Rutina Wesley, True Blood), Elliot’s life is spiraling out of control. That all changes, however, when a cryptic phone call sets off a dangerous game of risk and reward.

The game promises increasing monetary rewards for completing 13 tasks, each more sinister than the last. The sum total cash prize? $6.2 million. It starts with swatting a fly for $1,000. Then swallowing the dead fly for $3,000. Things get out of hand quickly, with tasks ranging from making a little girl cry to dragging a dead body into a diner for a cup of coffee.

13 Sins is based upon the 2006 Thai film by Chookiat Sakveerakul, 13: Game of Death. Stamm’s film feels like a mix of Cheap Thrills, The Game, and Saw, blending the horror comedy and psychological thriller genres to create a grisly exercise in escalation.

13 Sins movie posterRon Perlman (Pacific Rim, Hellboy) co-stars as a police detective on Elliot’s trail, slowly piecing together the seemingly random acts of violence and mayhem to one man. He meets a conspiracy theorist (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who maintains that this game has been played for centuries and has been instrumental in assassinations and other major events throughout history.

Elliot, meanwhile, discovers that there other people playing the game. These players intersect and create a larger, more horrific game. Like Saw, there is a mastermind pitting players against each other, except there is no life lesson to learn here. This madman’s goal is simple: achieve complete and total chaos.

Produced by Automatik and Blumhouse, 13 Sins is a somewhat successful thriller. It starts with a bang and remains compelling enough up until the third act, where big reveals and revelations miss the mark and the story fizzles out to its sudden and unfulfilling conclusion.

As much as I loved The Last Exorcism, I’m left disappointed with Stamm’s follow-up. Webber gives a solid performance, and it’s always nice to see Ron Perlman pop up in these low-budget genre films, but 13 Sins squanders a solid premise by not elaborating on the mythology established by Stamm and co-writer David Birke.

13 Sins made its world premiere last night as part of the Midnighters program at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW). Distributed by Dimension Films, 13 Sins has a tentative release date of April 18, 2014 – though I’m unsure if it will get a wide theatrical release or find a home on VOD.

Check out the trailer here below, and while you’re at it, check out Sakveerakul’s original film.


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